Image c/o CheckmatesCharity.com
Nearly 12 years ago to the day, Justin Mirigliani was preparing to celebrate his 28th birthday when he was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. The South Philly native was caught by surprise by the diagnosis. He was completely unprepared for what followed. Mirigliani’s health was mismanaged and the heavy weightlifter and hockey player lost nearly 50 pounds over the next three months.
“In that time I suffered through a kidney stone, severe blood loss, a life threatening case of Pancreatitis, Ulcerative Colitis induced Anorexia, severe nausea, a dangerous drop in Potassium, dehydration and Anemia,” said Mirigliani. “I was hospitalized on two different occasions, one for 4 days and another for 7 days. My life was saved when I changed doctors, going from Crozer-Chester to Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia.”
So, what did he do when his health improved enough that he could leave the hospital and get back to his everyday life? He formed Checkmates Charitable Association, a nonprofit 501 C3, of course. He has dedicated his life, in part, to raising awareness for UC and its autoimmune “cousin” diseases, like Crohn’s Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Psoriasis and Grave’s Disease.
“What drives me the most is that I do have two little girls who are at a greater risk of developing these diseases because of my disease,” continued Mirigliani. “I never want them sitting in an office to find out that they are stricken, like I did. So it is very important that we cure these diseases now rather than later.”
Mirigliani knows that, although these diseases are not necessarily fatal, they can be life altering. This awareness also drives him do do everything in his power to help where he can. As part of his mission, he has combined two of the things that are most important to him: his charity and hockey.
His charity is hosting Checkmates Hockey Benefit for IBD on January 10, 2015 where his team will face off against a prestigious Flyers alumni team, including Joe Watson, Bob Kelly, Brian Propp and more. The full roster can be viewed by clicking here. The game starts at 7:30 pm at the Ice Works Complex in Aston, PA. Following the game, the association will host a dinner with the Flyers alumni. Tax deductible tickets can be purchased through Mirigliani for the game and dinner.
“If I could go back and talk to my 10 year-old self and tell that little kid that one day he would be skating on the same ice as Brian Propp or Joe Watson or Bob Kelly, I think his little head would have exploded,” said Mirgliani. “For one night I will get a taste of what it is like to be an NHL player.
“With that said, I expect to be schooled! I don’t care how much older these guys are, they still possess that talent and knowledge to make it very difficult to compete with them. We have been practicing, so I hope we can, at least, put on a good show. I, myself, am in the greatest shape of my life. I work out six days a week and skate once a week to get back into hockey shape. But to stand on the ice with these greats will be an absolute honor and a lifelong memory.”
This game will be the worthwhile payoff for the immense amount of time and effort that the Checkmates Charitable Association has put in to organizing this event.
Tickets for the game cost $25 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under. Adults can also purchase tickets for the dinner for an additional $10. Tickets can be purchased and donations can be made through the website or by contacting Mirigliani directly.
“Whether we raise $1000 or 10,000 or $20,000 every little bit helps in the fight to stop Inflammatory Bowel Disease before any other people have to go through what I have had to go through,” concluded Mirigliani. “First and foremost I want these diseases gone before they can attack my two babies. Equally important to the money is the awareness we are raising when it comes to Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. These diseases are not well known and very much underfunded. By raising awareness, perhaps, the funding situation will become better too.”