John Miremont was on a business trip last July when his wife, Kristina, sent him an email about her alma mater that changed their lives — and the athletic program at McKinley High.

[RELATEDClick here to see the full list of 2019 Star of Stars award winners.]

“We saw a need and are glad to help,” Miremont said. “They say when you help someone, what you get in return comes tenfold. I’ve seen it happen before, and it is certainly true in this case. We want those kids to know someone cares. Helping McKinley is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”

Along with those rewards now comes an award. The Miremonts received The Advocate’s first Spirit Award at Monday’s Star of Stars event at the L'Auberge Events Center. The award is designed to honor a person or persons who go above and beyond to support a school’s athletic teams or program.

It started 10 months ago with that email. Soon after, Miremont and his wife, a 2003 McKinley graduate, agreed to pay for pregame meals for the football team. The Miremonts’ pledge to help quickly morphed into much more. In addition to a wide range of athletic-funded projects, they also support academic ventures at the school.

The fact that the Miremonts paid a $20,000 LHSAA sanctions fine has gotten plenty of attention. But their financial support and physical presence goes beyond that.

When he saw the helmets and shoulder pads that were sent from other EBR schools for McKinley players, John Miremont told interim head coach Robert Signater to order 75 new helmets last year. New uniforms, blocking sleds and gear for other teams has been purchased. Revamping an outdated weight room is the latest project.

Kristina Miremont is a regular presence at the school, serving as a mentor and/or a tutor when needed. John Miremont, a 1976 Catholic High graduate, makes it point to meet with the school’s principal, Dr. Esrom Pitre, weekly.

Like many, the Miremonts were shocked to learn that most school systems do not pay for athletics and other extra-curricular activities, forcing parents to pay fees and schools to raise money.

John Miremont, a recovering alcoholic, has been sober for 16 years. He often talks about being broke and getting sober at age 45, a turning point in his life.

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world because I got a second chance at life,” Miremont said. “Catholic High gave me the foundation for everything I do now. I believe things come circle. My life has. McKinley is one of the pillars in Baton Rouge, like Catholic and Baton Rouge High.

“It needs some extra care. Since we started this, I’ve heard other people are stepping up to help. That’s good. McKinley needs it and so do other schools.”

Follow Robin Fambrough on Twitter, @FambroughAdv.