For all of 11-year-old Mirabella Petruzzi’s life, her brother, Max, has loved her.
When she was born in 2004, Max stood outside the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Robert Wood Johnson Children’s Hospital and said he watched his 3 lb, 2 oz sibling cleave to life in her incubator. To comfort himself, he said his 5-year-old self held onto a small, stuffed monkey and sang songs to himself.
At the time of his sister’s birth, Max had the beginning ideas for Mirabella’s Miracle. Years later, it became a 501(c)(3) charity that donates compassion and care packages to neonatal units in six local hospitals. Max, now 16, insisted that stuffed monkeys make their way into the 30 care packages bound for the neonatal unit at Robert Wood Johnson — so they did.
“I felt that everyone should have a monkey in their care package to feel the same kind of comfort I had,” Max said.
by Josh Whitener from Union County Weekly
WEDDINGTON — In a world of American Idols and YouTube celebrities, one local eenager is discarding the path to stardom in exchange for helping families facing crisis.
Fifteen-year-old Max Petruzzi, a Weddington High School sophomore, is using his musical talent to raise funds to purchase gift baskets for families of hospitalized infants. Max recently launched the nonrofit Mirabella’s Miracle, named after his 10-year-old sister, Mirabella, who was born prematurely at 29 weeks and was hospitalized due to a life-threatening sepsis infection.
Though he was only 5 years old at the time of his sister’s illness, the event made a lasting impression on Max.
“It was a tragic situation for my family”, he said. “I remember (Mirabella’s hospitalization), but it didn’t really click for me exactly how we almost lost her until years later… Until I was a teenager, I really didn’t understand how tragic it was.”
An avid singer, Max began posting videos of himself singing on YouTube at 11 years old. His first video, a cover of the Bruno Mars hit “Just the Way You Are,” went viral, and Max received media coverage from several Charlotte-area news stations. He then attracted the attention of two of the largest talent agencies in New York and Los Angeles, as well as interest from the producers of “The X Factor,” the Disney channel, Nickelodeon and a couple of “boy bands” that were forming at the time.
“I wasn’t really interested in pursuing a career to be famous,” Max said. “All of this kind of came together when I finally realized (there was) a way to make this charitable.”
Max posted a video two years ago after Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast, with the goal of raising money for Restore the Shore, a disaster relief organization based out of New Jersey, where Max and his family are originally from. He also recorded and posted a song on iTunes and CDBaby.com, donating all the proceeds from the song sales to Restore the Shore.
Helping the victims of Hurricane Sandy ignited a passion within Max to use his talents to help others in need, and he began thinking back to his baby sister’s medical crisis 10 years ago. Taking science classes in high school also made him realize the seriousness of sepsis infections and being born premature.
“It kind of just drove the excitement to help people,” Max said. “I know how difficult it is to be in that situation where you have a newborn child in the hospital (in critical condition).”
Mirabella’s Miracle was officially launched about two months ago, and Max has recruited friends and schoolmates to help the nonprofit jumpstart its mission. The nonprofit will work with hospitals in the Charlotte area and in the Shore area of New Jersey to provide gifts baskets to families of hospitalized infants. Volunteers are in charge of making items, such as bracelets and assembling the gift baskets. They are then “paid” in volunteer service hours, Max said.
All funds collected by Mirabella’s Miracle will go directly to the gift baskets. The items included in the baskets will differ from family to family, depending on the families’ needs and the age of the hospitalized infants’ siblings.
“They’re going to be kind of unique per family”, Max said. “In my case, as a 5-year-old boy, we might include action figures… gift cards to restaurants for parents — anything that can benefit the family the most.”
Mirabella’s Miracle will work directly with hospital representatives to identify families who would benefit the most from the gift baskets.
“It’ll be wherever we find the most need, but (especially) people with a long hospital stay,” Max said.
Max’s latest video, a cover of John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change,” has been posted to YouTube and is being shared to help bring awareness to Mirabela’s Miracle. He plans to continue using his musical talents and spreading the news of his organization’s mission through word of mouth and social media.
“My hope is (people) will be inspired to get involved,” Max said. “My goal is to help them understand what (these families’) experiences is like… it’s a terrible thing to have to deal with, especially for siblings. It can be very confusing — you’re excited about your brand new baby brother or sister, and now you’re confused because they’re in the hospital.”