Whether it’s a signed ticket from being in the right place at the right time or an autographed photo from an athlete to promote the opening of a car dealership, many sports fans have some signed items tucked away in their collections. What makes Tim Virgilio different is that he is using his collectibles to make a difference, rather than just collecting dust in a forgotten box in the attic. Virgilio is the founder of “Signatures For Soldiers,” an arm of Military Missions In Action (MMIA), a registered 501(c)3 charity supporting both veterans and current military members.
MMIA provides home care, repairs and home remodels for disabled veterans and the disabled children of active service members, as well as providing clothing and hygiene items for homeless veterans and sends care packages to deployed military personnel.
Virgilio has been involved with the organization since its inception in 2007, but a move out of North Carolina–home of MMIA– made it difficult to be as involved as he once was. Still desiring to support the organization, in November 2014, Virgilio founded Signatures For Soldiers, to “…use my hobby of autograph collecting to reach out to former MLB players to request that they sign cards that I had so that I could sell the cards and 100% of the money raised, not just the profits.” In just under two years, Signatures For Soldiers has raised over $14,000.
Virgilio takes trading cards, either donated or from his personal collection, and contacts the athlete to see if they would be willing to sign a few cards or make a personal donation. Once the card or cards have been returned, they are posted on the Signatures for Soldiers website and made available for purchase, with the full amount donated to the larger MMIA cause.
The support from athletes is nothing short of impressive. While contributions from any professional athlete are appreciated, Signatures For Soldiers has some impressive names amongst their over 300 supporters. Former All-Stars Ivan Rodriguez, Curt Schilling, Delino DeShields and Rob Dibble have contributed, as have some top minor league prospects such as Jacob Faria, Taylor Motter and Jose Trevino.
Sometimes, the athletes will go above and beyond the initial request and add cards and signed photos from their personal collections. Sometimes, they even add more.
Jose Trevino, a catching prospect in the Rangers organization sent Virgilio a tweet of several signed cards as well as a pair of signed game-used batting gloves. Taylor Motter of the Tampa Bay Rays sent a signed game-used bat, but the biggest surprise came from Lance McCullers Jr., a star pitcher with the Houston Astros.
“Mr. McCullers. . . informed me that the game issued hat and cleats that he wore from the Memorial Day game this season were going to be donated to support my efforts. True to his word, he donated the hat and cleats and signed all of them.”
You don’t have to be a professional athlete to support Signatures For Soldiers. If you have a dusty old box of baseball cards sitting in a closet somewhere that you can part with, Virgilio can use them.
“If I can make a dollar or two from the donated item, I’m willing to accept it.”
In addition, sending cards to the athletes isn’t free, and any postal supplies would be greatly appreciated as well. Stamps, padded 4×6 envelopes and sharpies are the items most in need, but the support doesn’t need to be tangible. Any assistance getting information about the charity can make a huge difference, as can contacting athletes and asking them to get involved with Signatures For Soldiers. Exposure is key, and any creative way to raise awareness of MMIA and Signatures For Soldiers can make a world of difference.