Retraction (01/17/2020 @ 12:15 PM): We originally reported this happening in 2020, but this particular visit took place on January 8 of 2019. The article has been updated to reflect this.

Mt. Lebanon native Joe Manganeillo, best known for his roles in Magic Mike and True Blood (but to us will always be Spider-Man’s Flash Thompson), showed up at the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh with his brother Nick and played Dungeons & Dragons with a trio of kids on this past Tuesday, January 8 last year. While it happened quite a while ago, it’s never too late to commend such awesome behavior.

The duo, who makes similar trips all around the nation, hopes to raise interest in the hobby among the kids, and have donated many carts of starter kits and books to Children’s Hospital. We couldn’t be more smitten with the idea, as lifelong role-playing fanatics.

Joe Manganeillo Flash Thompson Spider-Man 3
Joe Manganeillo may have been a douche in Spider-Man, but IRL he’s a big softy.

Dungeons & Dragons is a game built totally with-and-upon imagination (and a little escapism, but we’re okay with that).

In the tabletop game, players create a persona or make-believe alter-ego with an invented personality, traits, abilities, and skills, and act out fantasy stories sort of like an improv-workshop-meets-creative-writing-club.

Manganeillo, a D&D enthusiast, wants to get all the kids in on the fun.

The game allows you to immerse yourself in a different reality, not unlike video games, and for kids suffering from debilitating, long term illness or recovering from traumatic injuries, a little escape can be a very good thing.

Children’s Hospital and Manganeillo should both be commended for encouraging these children’s mental and emotional health.

Joe Manganeillo, and brother Nick sit with patient Yahim Young of Penn Hills as he sets up the stats of his character.
Joe Manganeillo and brother Nick sit with patient Yahim Young of Penn Hills as he creates his character.

“Kids should be allowed to play… to be kids while they’re going through these medical issues that are forcing them not to be kids, but to be grownups,” Manganeillo said. The kids took to the idea quickly, building their characters and learning the rules in no time at all.

Manganeillo as the enthusiastic Dungeon Master brought the best out of the kids, helping them all became their ideal warriors, healers, and adventurers and cheering them on as they dealt killing blows to enemies and explored untold lands. 

For a while, these two kids were raging barbarians.

Manganeillo, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, currently lives in Los Angeles and has a dungeon in his basement complete with dragon heads mounted on the wall where he regularly hosts D&D campaigns with other enthusiasts.

His brother Nick recalls being a child, and hanging out with Joe and his friends as they played D&D until the sun came up.

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Dungeons & Dragons has found new embrace in popular culture with shows like Stranger Things.

Dungeons & Dragons has had a comeback in popularity of late, with characters from Stranger Things, Big Bang Theory and Community regularly playing it. Even celebrities, like Vin Diesel, Felicia Day, and Deborah Ann Woll, host live D&D sessions on YouTube and other social media.

Once ridiculed by many, and even demonized, it was for a time relegated to small gatherings in people’s basements and parent’s dining rooms. We’re glad to see the game elevated to a position to be doing real good for people that both deserve and benefit from its virtues.


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