“Row hard or don’t row at all.” That was one of Mike Mirabella’s favorite rowing quotes, according to his mother, Cathy Moeller, and it is a mantra for any rower.
Penn AC Rowing Association has created the Mike Mirabella Scholarship in honor of Michael John Mirabella, a promising young rower that died of cancer in December 2014 at the age of 23. The scholarship will be offered each year to one athlete from Philadelphia City Rowing (PCR) for a full ride in the Penn AC Gold U19 summer camp.
PCR Executive Director Terry Dougherty said, “Establishing this scholarship is a great tribute to [Mike’s] memory. He was always upbeat and demonstrated his compassion for others. ”
“We still miss Mike and we wanted to recognize him in this way so that more young rowers will hear his story and so that he will continue to be remembered for the great person he was,” said Penn AC President Mike Wherley.
“It amazes me how people are still thinking of him and still honoring him,” said Mirabella’s mother, Cathy Moeller. “I wish I knew how people thought about him before all this happened and how he really impacted so many people.”
Penn AC has awarded similar scholarships to PCR athletes over each of the past three years, but decided to name the scholarship permanently after Mirabella, who was training at Penn AC with its High Performance Group and was also a mentor for athletes at PCR when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the fall of 2013.
“When PCR began a mentoring program, Mike Mirabella was one of the first to step up and volunteer,” said Dougherty. “His willingness to do for others will be greatly missed.”
Mirabella was a very successful rower at Temple University (’14) and Absegami High School (’09) before he came to Penn AC with the dream to make the U.S. National Team.
“He had an inner competitive drive that led to his successes on the water, but he was also the type of person you wanted to get to know better – very respectful and kind to others,” said Wherley. “He was a great role model to have around the boathouse and was the type of rower and person we would like to see all junior rowers become.”
Mirabella gave much of his time to charitable organizations. In addition to being a mentor for PCR, he joined two fellow Temple students to create Cycle4Awareness to raise money and awareness for children with special needs. In 2012, Mirabella cycled from Philadelphia to Key West, Florida to raise money for children with autism. He also cycled from Vancouver, British Columbia, to San Diego to raise money for Athletes Helping Athletes Inc.
“I hope the kids that are awarded this scholarship can take away something from the experience that guides them to be better people for a lifetime,” said Penn AC Steward Curt Browder, who coached Mike during his time at Penn AC.
Penn AC will hold a ceremony at The Stotesbury Cup Regatta on the weekend of May 20-21 to announce the winner of the 2016 scholarship.
Previous scholarship recipients from PCR:
– 2015: Margarita Amihava (Sr., will attend Drexel on a full scholarship in the fall)
– 2014: Helen “Holli” Sdao (Sr., undecided)
– 2014: Miranda Gibson (attends Temple)
– 2013: James Garcia (attends Community College of Philadelphia and coaches PCR middle school program)
– 2013: Lester Johnson (attends Univ. of Pittsburgh – main campus)
About Penn AC: Established in 1871, Penn Athletic Club Rowing Association has a long history of supporting rowing at all levels, from novices and junior rowers to Olympians. Its Penn AC Gold program for high school rowers has been very successful over the past decade, winning several titles at US Rowing Club Nationals for both men and women.
About Philadelphia City Rowing: Philadelphia City Rowing seeks to empower local public school students through the sport of rowing. It was established in 2010 and its objectives are to: establish a Public School Rowing Team that is competitive locally, regionally and nationally, and creates the opportunity for participants to pursue rowing at the collegiate level and beyond; use competitive rowing as a vehicle to improve the health, well-being, self-confidence and academic success of Philadelphia’s public school students; involve participants in one of Philadelphia’s greatest sporting traditions.