|Treveon Graham, left, and Ta'Quan Zimmerman, right, put plenty of smiles on the faces|
of Waterbury kids Wednesday during a backpack giveaway at the 20th Annual
Waterbury Youth Services Back to School Rally in Library Park. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Ta'Quan Zimmerman, a Waterbury native graduate of Holy Cross High School, and Treveon Graham, an alum of Virginia Commonwealth University, signed and helped hand out backpacks to kids at the 20th Annual Waterbury Youth Services Back to School Rally at Library Park.
So how are Zimmerman and Graham connected?
They were teammates on the Idaho Stampede, an NBA Development League team.
"We went our separate ways, but we still stayed in touch, and that's why I'm here today," Graham said.
Separate ways have put Zimmerman in Canada with the Halifax Hurricanes, and Graham with the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA. They came together again in Library Park.
To Zimmerman, Graham is more like family than a friend.
"He's very close to me," Zimmerman said. "I don't even call him a friend. He's more like a brother."
"That's what basketball does, it brings a lot of people together," Graham said.
Zimmerman said he and Graham are always there for each other. They joined forces Wednesday to help out the youth of Waterbury.
"You look around, we live in Waterbury, where there's a lot of kids that are unfortunate or underprivileged," said Zimmerman. "It's very important to give these kids the opportunity to go to school the same as someone who is fortunate enough to have a backpack, school supplies and clothes like that. I think it's definitely an honor and a blessing to be able to give back."
Zimmerman has the Ta'Quan Zimmerman Foundation, which looks to help disadvantaged children and young adults. Graham has his own foundation and hopes to do something similar for kids in Washington, D.C.
Zimmerman also had major support from his family Wednesday. Brother Duval Zimmerman Jr. was there, along with mother Tina. Duval owns Transition Marketing and Management Agency and the True to Yourself clothing line.
"It’s very important, and it’s huge to have my family supporting me, behind me, helping me push what I’m trying to do," Ta'Quan Zimmerman said.
Duval said set up for the backpacks began around 9 a.m.
The backpack giveaway is in its third year. Two hundred backpacks of different colors and sizes for multiple age levels were given away.
"It's very important to do this," Duval said.
Important enough for Graham to come back and support his friend. Important enough for the Zimmerman family and friends to come together and support the youth of Waterbury.
"Anywhere where we can give back and help out the kids, that’s what we want to do," Tommy Jannetty said. "Give them a head start on the school year."
Jannetty went to school with Ta'Quan at Holy Cross for a year before transferring to Wolcott, and he wanted to give back to local youth.
"Just shot him a text, and said I wanted to be involved," Jannetty said.
In June, it was the first "Be a Buddy, Not a Bully" softball game, held at Bucks Hill Park. The game was sponsored by the Ta'Quan Zimmerman Foundation and True to Yourself. Ta'Quan and Duval were there, along with Graham, Jannetty and Tennessee Titan Jerome Cunningham, a graduate of Crosby High School.
They were all there for the kids, because that's what matters most. Wednesday's Back to School Rally was just another way of helping out.
"It's a nice, positive environment for them to be in," Jannetty said.
And if the kids of Waterbury get off to a good start in the upcoming school year because of the rally, then it is a rousing success. It may even inspire some of the youngsters in attendance to be like Ta'Quan Zimmerman, or Treveon Graham, or any other community role model. That can only be a good thing.
PHOTOS: Click here to see images from Wednesday's event.