Determined Shriners Hospitals Patient Overcomes Incredible Odds Following Lumbar Spinal Surgery to Accomplish Goal of Running a Marathon

Shriners Hospitals for Children patient and Pittsburgh resident Mariela Benitez recently shared her inspiring story with Pittsburgh's Syria Shriners.

"As a kid, Shriner's Hospital in Tampa, FL was the place I felt invincible in. The doctors, nurses, PCTs, volunteers, and all the other staff were always there with a smiling face," Mariela said. "They were some of the first people (besides my mom) to show me I was capable of anything, if I set my mind to it. I'm a way, you could say they taught me how to be stubborn."

Her determination to overcome surgery and complete a marathon following a 2019 car accident is nothing short of heartwarming. Read on below...

I was a Tampa, FL Shriner's patient in the 90s and 00s. I have so much to thank Shriner's staff and to the Masons that help support the hospital and the cause. 

12/2019 I injured my back in a car accident. My doctor encouraged lumbar spine surgery in hopes it would help alleviate the pain. I underwent a discectomy in 09/30/21.

When I asked my surgeon if he thought I could run a marathon he said "you're very determined and I know if you want to you will." I said, "doctor, you can say I'm stubborn." He smiled and said "you can do anything you set your mind to, and I know you'll modify if/when you need to because you're very aware of your body." I like to think it was all the years I spent as a Shriner's patient, where I had to learn to verbalize my pain and my soothers.

As a result, I decided to set up Fundraise for LOVE — Florida as a way to dedicate my run to an organization that gave so much to me.

Well, Shriner's family, I accomplished my goal to run a marathon on 09/12/21, just 18 days short of 1 year since my spine surgery. My back is fantastic, although my feet/ toes beg to differ.

I'd just like to say thank you for everything you've ever done for kids that started like me. Living in Pittsburgh now, it's always a joy when I'm reminded of the Shriner's family that will always be a part of me.

Thank you,
Mariela Benitez

Our 2021 Illustrious Sir, Noble Donald I Green is a longtime fan of Mariela and tremendous spirit. Green was quoted as saying, "This is what Shriners do - Helping Kids."

KDKA’s Rich Walsh Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Above: KDKA Sports Anchor Rich Walsh is flanked by Pittsburgh Syria Shrine members (left to right) Todd Green, Al Tedeschi, Randy Hobaugh, Illustrious Potentate Don Green and Scott Green.

It was our privilege to recognize KDKA's Rich Walsh with the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award at the Annual Potentate Stag this past Saturday!

Rich's exemplary work in Pittsburgh sports media and in our local community earned him this lofty recognition.

Rich was kind enough to mention his acceptance on the Nightly Sports Call, and you can view that clip here:

Live Music Set to Sizzle All Summer at The Pittsburgh Shrine Center

Your 2021 summer just got a whole lot hotter.. The Pittsburgh Shrine Center, Western Pennsylvania’s most flexible special event and entertainment venue, is thrilled to welcome red hot live music performances back to the ‘Burgh! 

After a wildly successful first season in a most challenging year, the Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion stage will once again be the #1 place for you and your friends to enjoy local and national blues, rock, country, oldies, jamband and polka artists. 

Weekly FREE and ticketed live performances kick off this May and continue all summer long.

If an abundance of caution kept you away last year, these incredible performers hope you will feel comfortable coming out to support LIVE local music in 2021.

Miller Lite Thunder Thursdays Summer Music Series 2021

Live Music Every Thursday! Miller Lite Thunder Thursdays Summer Music Series 

The Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion is your Thursday night place to be all summer long! 

Pittsburgh’s Shriners, in conjunction with Moondog's & the StarLite Lounge, proudly present the Miller Lite Thunder Thursdays Summer Music Series, all summer long in the spacious Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion.

The Miller Lite Thunder Thursdays Summer Music Series kept the Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion jumping and attendees grooving all summer long in 2020. The Thunder is ready to roll again in 2021. 

Enjoy LIVE local music when the series begins on Thursday, June 3rd and continuing through October 14th. Local artists will rock the Pavilion stage every Thursday night.

Where is Thunder Thursdays Held?

The Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion is only a short distance from downtown. We're located at 1877 Shriners Way, Cheswick, PA 15024 ( Map it! ).

There’s NEVER a cover, but you’re ALWAYS under cover, so you don't have to worry about raindrops fallin' on your head! 

Gates open at 6pm. Music plays from 7-9pm. Refresh at our full bar. Skip the home cooking for an evening and enjoy food from The StarLite Lounge. Treat yourself to frozen treats from Kona Ice of Butler.

Oh, and FREE parking, too!

Miller Lite Thunder Thursdays Summer Music Series Live Music Lineup:

The official Miller Lite Thunder Thursdays Summer Music Series 2021 live music lineup is as follows! 

(Performance lineups subject to changes, additions, etc., follow Pittsburgh's Syria Shriners for the latest concert announcements: facebook.com/SyriaShriners)

Major ticketed concerts featuring critically acclaimed artists

Huge, and we mean BIG, live music concerts are coming to the Pittsburgh Shrine Center this Summer.

Here are the upcoming performances with links to get your tickets today!

Summer Music at the Pittsburgh Shrine Center Banner

Tommy Castro & the Painkillers  May 9th
BB King Entertainer of the Year Tommy Castro & the Painkillers bring their exhilarating brand of irresistible contemporary blues-rock to the Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion for this special Mothers Day concert! Special guest Kip London opens the show.

Ana Popovic May 19th - Blues Music Awards Best Blues Rock Artist Nominee Ana Popovic brings her mesmerizing guitar skills and fabulous band to Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion for this high-energy concert! The fabulous blues women of Special Guest Soulful Femme open the show.

Bill Toms & Hard Rain May 22 - Bill Toms & Hard Rain, featuring The Soulville Horns, celebrate the release of their 10th studio album, Keep Movin' On, with special guest, Aris Paul Band, winners of the Hollywood Music in Media Award for best rock song.

North Hills Home Brew Fest

Jim Donovan and The Sun King Warriors May 29thJim Donovan and The Sun King Warriors are best described as a blend of rhythm-heavy roots rock, with a strong dose of big barreling drums. Think bluesy Zeppelinesque bombast and Santana-style percussion with wild Avett Brothers energy. At a Sun King show, you can expect to dance, sweat and have the time of your life.

Norman Nardini May 30th - After more than a year away from the stage, Norman Nardini returns in this special physically-distanced outdoor show at Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion. Harry, Whitey and Larry join the Uncrowned King of Pittsburgh Rock n' Roll, as he reclaims his throne. You don't want to miss this one! 

Gathering Field June 5th - Gathering Field celebrates the release of the live recording of their October 3, 2020 concert at Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion! 

CRACKER June 30 - CRACKER brings their uniquely American mix of high-powered post-grunge, post-punk alt-pop and alt-country to the Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion for an all-ages show. It will quite possibly the coolest show you will see this summer! John Vento & Friends will open the show.

Lawrenceville Music Festival July 3rd  - Lawrenceville Independence Day Reunion Show with Nied’s Hotel Band, The SPUDS, Shot O’ Soul, Chris Nied, and special guest emcee JImmy Nied.

The The Rock-n-Roll Italian Invasion Paul Martino's Retirement Party July 11th - Join Celebrity MC and special musical guest Paul Martino as he celebrates his retirement from KDKA-TV with an all-star cast of his fellow Italian musical friends in this once-in-a-lifetime show! The Italian Invasion with KDKA’s Paul Martino, Norman Nardini, The Granati Brothers and John Vento & Friends.


theCAUSE July 24th - Pittsburgh’s premier Jamband theCAUSE performs three full sets of music inspired by the Grateful Dead, Phish, Government Mule, Ratdog and other luminaries of the jam scene, accompanied by their original tunes.

Pittsburgh Blues & Roots Festival

Pittsburgh Blues & Roots Festival July 31st - August 1st - The Pittsburgh Blues & Roots Festival returns to the Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion after a one-year pandemic-related hiatus. This will be the fourth year for the two-day festival at Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion. The festival features national, regional and local blues and roots music to benefit Band Together Pittsburgh, a non-profit organization working with people on the Autism spectrum through music. Musicians who are on the spectrum will be a part of the show.

The Fabulous Gemtones

The Fabulous Gemtones August 28th - The Fabulous Gemtones bring their unique blend of R&B, Motown, Soul, Rock, Pop, Disco, Jazz, Show Tune, Oldies and more to the Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion stage for two shows. One ticket gets you admission to both shows.

Western Pennsylvania Blues Challenge September 5th - The Western Pennsylvania Blues Challenge, sponsored by the Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania, features seven hours of the best local and regional blues bands competing for the opportunity to represent Western Pennsylvania at the International Blues Challenge next January in Memphis, Tennessee.

Polka at the Pavilion September 12th - Polka at the Pavilion with the Mikey Dee Band, Jack Tady & the Tady Bears, and a Polka Mass with Father Miro Stelmaszczyk from St. Matthew Parish. Mikey Dee and Jack Tady are both members of the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame.

Glitz at the Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion

Glitz at the Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion September 18th - Glitz plays Rock 'n' Roll the way YOU like it. All the great songs from all the great rock bands of the 80s and more! Lights, fog, and all the GLITZ you'd expect from Masters of the "hair band" genre.

Additional ticketed events will be announced throughout the summer!

WHERE? The Pittsburgh Shrine Center Pavilion is only a short distance from downtown. We're located at 1877 Shriners Way, Cheswick, PA 15024 ( Map it! ).

FREE parking, too!

Tickets for all shows can be purchased at SyriaShriners.org OR  PghShrineCenter.com

Partnership with Pittsburgh's Legendary Moondog's Pub

Moondog's Pub has been closed for more than 13 months, and Ronny 'Moondog' Esser won't be reopening until October, but the dog ain't sleepin'. Moondog's has just moved its shows to the Pittsburgh Shrine Center

The Shriners have teamed up with Ronny “Moondog” Esser to produce our summer concert series.

Shriners business manager Bob Addleman says, “we are so very happy to partner with Moondog's and the StarLite Lounge to provide bands a place to play, and music lovers a place to enjoy them, in as safe an environment as we can offer."

“2020 was a tough year, and we are glad we have a facility that can host these events. Our pavilion can hold 1,000 people, so we can provide ample physical distancing and still have a nice audience for our musicians.”

Esser, who owns Moondog's and the StarLite Lounge in Blawnox, and is the man behind the music at the Pittsburgh Blues & Roots Festival and the Eight Great Tuesdays series in Erie, calls the shows, “a ray of sunshine on an otherwise dismal year for music. Moondog's has been closed since March 2020, we've been able to do very little at the StarLite, the Blues & Roots Festival and the Erie concerts had to be canceled, The Shriners' series gives bands a stage, and their fans a place to see and hear them perform. I'm overjoyed to be a part of it. When music is what you've lived your whole life, you need it to stay sane.” 

Additional entertaining events coming to the Pittsburgh Shrine Center

As a leading entertainment, wedding reception and special event venue, the Pittsburgh Shrine Center adds exciting new events all the time. Check out some of these great times for you and your friends to enjoy!

Pittsburgh's live music fans support our Mission

Pittsburgh Shriners’ CEO, Donald Green, who serves a year-long term as ‘Potentate’, has been pleased with the emergence of The Pittsburgh Shrine Center as a regional hotspot for live local music. 

“Our first mission is to help kids,” Don says. “Shriners around the world help children through fundraising in support of Shriners Hospitals for Children, where we provide care to children with neuromusculoskeletal conditions, burn injuries and other special healthcare needs. Through these concerts we can simultaneously support our great philanthropy, entertain music lovers from across the Pittsburgh region and showcase the talents of these incredible singers and musicians who grace our stage at the Pittsburgh Shrine Center. We couldn’t be happier!”

The Shriners - A long musical history

Pittsburgh’s Shriners - the premiere fraternal organization for men of good character - have a long and storied connection to musical performance in the Pittsburgh region.

Many Shriner members belong to clubs filled with musicians who play anywhere from our own stage to local parades. The Pittsburgh Shriners Band is nearly 120 years old!

The former Syria Mosque in Oakland served as a premier venue for big time traveling acts and artists for decades. The 3,700 seat Syria Mosque ushered in a grand era of social and ceremonial events, and for nearly 75 years it contributed greatly to Pittsburgh’s cultural life.

"The Syria Mosque for 75 years was the centerpiece of Pittsburgh’s music culture hosting the performances of world renowned classical, jazz and rock artists." (Pittsburgh Music History)

In October 1994, the Pittsburgh Shrine Center opened its new, 40,000 square foot, $10 million facility set on 37 acres in Harmar Township, Cheswick, PA.

About the Pittsburgh Shrine Center and Pittsburgh's Shriners

For over 25 years, The Pittsburgh Shrine Center has served the Pittsburgh region's desire for a flexible, multi-use special event facility.

The Pittsburgh Shrine Center has hosted over 500 weddings and an equal amount of corporate, social and civic events. Beyond its role as a hub of activities for Pittsburgh's Syria Shriners, the Pittsburgh Shrine Center welcomes the public year-round as a venue for banquets, weddings, wedding and bridal showers, concerts, pageants, stage shows, trade shows, dinner theater, civic meetings and other business and social affairs.

The Pittsburgh Shrine center also hosts its own seasonal events open to the public.

Check out event announcements and further information at: pghshrinecenter.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/pghshrinecenter and instagram.com/pghshrinecenter

Syria Shriners Logo

Founded in 1877, and with nearly 4,000 members in Western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh's Syria Shriners is ninth-oldest and third-largest of the nearly 200 local chapters of Shriners International worldwide.

The goal of the Shriners is to be the premiere fraternal organization for men of good character.

The Shriners are committed to providing attractive, quality programs and services for its members, their families, friends, and the community in a spirit of fun, fellowship and philanthropy. Shriners foster self-improvement through leadership, education, the perpetuation of moral values and community involvement.

Shriners serve humankind through the resources of its great philanthropy, the Shriners Hospitals for Children®. 

For more information, please visit www.syriashriners.org

Shriners Hospitals for Children Wants Everyone to “Be Burn Aware” Burn Awareness Week Kicks Off Annual Campaign

TAMPA, Florida — Feb. 7–13, 2021, is Burn Awareness Week. During this time, Shriners Hospitals for Children® launches its annual burn awareness and prevention campaign. Since the 1960s, Shriners Hospitals for Children has been a leader in burn care, research and education — and burn injury prevention is a key component in these efforts.

Burn Awareness Week is Shriners Hospitals for Children’s kickoff of a yearlong educational campaign aimed at burn awareness and prevention. Free educational materials, available via the website beburnaware.org, are designed to be a resource for firefighters, teachers, parents and others concerned with the safety and well-being of children.

Building on the theme “Be Burn Aware,” we work to prevent burn injuries in the home, because that’s where most preventable burn injuries occur. Homes are the sites of thousands of burn injuries to children every year, including scalds, fire-related injuries, and even electrical burns. 

“The most important point to remember is that many of these types of burns are preventable,” said David Greenhalgh, M.D., chief of burns at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California. 

Consequently, educating parents and families about burn injuries and some simple safety precautions they can take is an important part of the mission of Shriners Hospitals for Children. 

The burn awareness campaign features two child-friendly characters, Boots and Brewster – a caped, cuddly bear and a googly-eyed teapot – who are featured in activity books for children ages 3-7 and 8-12. The duo leads children through the various rooms of a house, pointing out dangers, and how to easily correct or avoid them. The coloring pages, word searches, cartoons and other activities are designed to grab children’s attention and present the information in a memorable, age-appropriate manner. The campaign also features various tip sheets and fact cards, all available online. Most of the materials are available in French and Spanish.

Shriners Hospitals has also created an animated video, Boots and Brewster: The Burn Awareness

Pair, which kids are sure to enjoy. In the video, available on YouTube.com/ShrinersHospitals, Boots and Brewster take viewers on a fun and educational adventure to help them become more burn aware. 

Shriners Hospitals for Children encourages everyone concerned with keeping children safe to visit beburnaware.org for helpful burn prevention tips and information on how to order the free materials. 

About Shriners Hospitals for Children 

Shriners Hospitals for Children is changing lives every day by providing pediatric specialty care, conducting innovative  research and offering outstanding educational programs for medical professionals.  Our health care system provides care for children with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate, regardless of the families’ ability to pay. Shriners Hospitals for Children is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and relies on the generosity of donors. All donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law. For more information, please visit shrinershospitalsforchildren.org.

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