When his family started Beyond Tucson, Ross Zimmerman envisioned it as a one-time positive antidote to the horror of losing his son and five other Tucsonans on Jan. 8, 2011.
But the idea struck a chord with local residents.
Beyond Tucson will hold its seventh annual day of outdoor community-oriented events on Saturday, Jan. 13.
The single day of activities that range from bike rides to Zumba has not only continued on an annual basis since 2012, regularly attracting upwards of 5,000 attendees, but has become its own organization — a nonprofit foundation with a board of directors.
The group has begun to expand its scope and offer activities that encourage community, health and getting outdoors on a year-round basis. But its mainstay continues to be a one-day event that celebrates the spirit of community Tucson showed in the days after the Jan. 8 shootings.
Beyond Tucson is also a chance to remember the lives of those lost that day — Christina-Taylor Green, Dorothy Morris, U.S. District Court Judge John Roll, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwan Stoddard and Ross’ son, Gabe Zimmerman, who was a 30-year-old aide to then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords when he died. Another 13 people, including Giffords, were injured.
The shooting occurred during a Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” event, and those killed were all constituents.
“We are beyond that date, but I do think it’s important that we remember the incident, how horrible it was, and how the community came together,” said Pat Maisch, now 68, who helped tackle and hold down the shooter that day, preventing him from firing more rounds.
Beyond Tucson is appealing because of its emphasis on Tucson’s resiliency and compassion, Maisch said. The event speaks to Maisch, who never stopped going to the Safeway plaza at Ina and Oracle roads where the shooting occurred and says she refuses to allow the negativity of that day define her life.
Maisch has always been a participant in Beyond Tucson, but this year she’ll join some other Jan. 8, 2011, survivors, including Christina-Taylor Green’s mother, in hosting a Beyond Tucson event.
Their Stroll and Roll is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon the day of the event at Christina-Taylor Green Memorial River Park.
Stroll and roll means that participants can walk, ride their bikes, stroll, run, or just hang out on one of the park’s many benches.
There will be face-painting, snacks, balloons and chalk to write messages on the pavement, as well as comfort dogs from Gabriel’s Angels.
Christina-Taylor, 9, was the youngest victim of the shooting. She’d been recently elected to her student council at Mesa Verde Elementary School and had been waiting in line with a neighbor, hoping to talk to Giffords about government, when she was shot.
“She would have been 16 years old now, begging her mom for a car, being a typical 16-year-old girl — all of the things Roxanna and John and Dallas don’t get to experience. She deserves to be remembered,” Maisch said.
Christina-Taylor’s parents, John and Roxanna, and her brother, Dallas, will be at the event in the newly-improved park, which opened in April and is located along Pima County’s Loop trail. Everyone is invited, Roxanna said. She emphasized that the event is about remembering special loved ones, not just her daughter.
“It is a lovely park for people to enjoy, and Christina-Taylor would love it. She was all about her community and getting outside and being athletic. I think she’d want us to continue to celebrate being with neighbors and friends, old and new.”
The event will also be a chance for the Green family to thank the community effort that went into creating the park, Christina-Taylor’s mother said.
The Greens appealed to the community and local businesses to help raise the funds to build the colorful park, which, among other things, now includes benches, a plaza, a monarch way station, a hummingbird garden, nature trail and a large mural with tiles to acknowledge the donors.
One of the signatures of the park is a statue of two children — a boy reading a book called Hope, and a girl reading a book called Love.
Roxanna says the girl is not supposed to be Christina-Taylor, though many park visitors believe she is. On a recent Wednesday the statue of the girl had been adorned with poinsettias and a white, clay angel.
The park is on the southwest corner of Shannon and Magee roads, across from the Northwest YMCA. It’s a place where Christina-Taylor and Dallas liked to ride bikes together, and a place where her family still goes.
The driving force behind Beyond Tucson has always been, “to try to make people and the society they are in healthier, more cohesive, and less likely to do bad things to one another,” Zimmerman said.
This year will mark the first time Roxanna has been involved with Beyond. The timing was right, she said, especially now that the upgrades to the park honoring her daughter are complete.
“We miss her very much. We don’t want people to forget her or the other people who were taken that day,” Roxanna said.
“We also don’t want to forget those who were injured or witnessed the tragedy and must live with the pain for the rest of their lives.”