Coach:

  • Jon Michelon, in the blue shirt, was inspired to support the Israel Sports Center for The Disabled after hearing a speech by Israeli teen Asael Shabo, now 29, who became a world-renowned athlete after using sports to recover from injuries he suffered in a terrorist attack that included having a leg amputated.

    Jon Michelon, in the blue shirt, was inspired to support the Israel Sports Center for The Disabled after hearing a speech by Israeli teen Asael Shabo, now 29, who became a world-renowned athlete after using sports to recover from injuries he suffered in a terrorist attack that included having a leg amputated. Courtesy of Jon Michelon

  • Jon Cohn

    Jon Cohn

 
 
Updated 7/28/2022 9:33 AM

Sometimes a speech can have a lasting impact.

That was certainly the case for Highland Park native Jon Michelon.

 

Michelon remembers it well, while being at a golf outing at the Ravinia Green Country Club. The event was in support of a facility called The Israel Sport Center for the Disabled, and up to the microphone came a young teenager named Asael Shabo.

"He told the crowd how, at the age of 8, his house was raided by terrorists and his three brothers and mother were all killed, and he himself was shot in the leg," Michelon said. "Soon after, his leg would have to be amputated. Asael then told the crowd how, after the tragedy and in his recovery, the first place he went to was the Israel Sports Center For The Disabled (ISCD), and explained how vital they were in his recovery from the tragedy.

"He was so composed and so well-spoken. After hearing that, I knew I had to get more involved."

He did, and he is. Michelon is now a vice president and fundraising chair for a local group called The American Friends of Israel Sports Center For The Disabled (AFISCD). And he is not the only local involved. In fact, Deerfield, Highland Park, Northbrook, Glenview and Winnetka residents dominate the board and active membership of this nationwide organization.

Local names including Danny Shapiro, Jeff Brincat, Brad Zamler, Matt Abeles, Lori Ann Komisar (board president), Morris Silverman (board vice president), Harry Matthew and ex-Glenbrook North basketball stars Josh and Adam Carl all dot the active board roster of this organization.

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They may be separated by approximately 6,800 miles, but really the two groups -- the sports center in Israel and the local "Friends Of" group -- couldn't be closer. One supports the other, and neither could survive on their own.

The American Friends of Israel Sports Center For The Disabled is a charitable group whose mission is to raise funds to support the sports center located so far away in Ramat Gan, Israel.

The Israel Sport Center For The Disabled has been around since the 1960s. It is a facility and organization dedicated to using sports to support and rehabilitate those who were either born with a disability or have suffered debilitating injuries, such as war veterans or victims of terrorist attacks.

The center offers a variety of sports: aquatics, wheelchair basketball, track and field, tennis, cycling, table tennis, and more.

Of note: ISCD athletes take their sports seriously and train to compete both locally and internationally, such as at the Paralympic Games.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The biggest benefit, though, is the psychological part of the rehabilitation," Michelon says. "Participation in sports really helps these kids and athletes gain confidence, respect, togetherness, self-worth and a sense of 'team.'

"I know how valuable sports can be from having all five of my kids compete in various activities in their younger years," says Michelon, who now lives in Glencoe. "The life lessons learned and the psychological benefits of sport are so great, and of course those competing and training at the center in Israel have had to overcome so much more with their disabilities. Their training at the ICSD really helps in this aspect of their recovery."

The American Friends wing of the organization is the primary financial support system for this vital Israel sports facility, and one of their big fundraisers will be Tuesday, Aug. 2, at the Glen Golf Club in Glenview.

This will be the 13th annual golf outing for the organization -- and it's the largest turnout in the event's history, with 28 foursomes signed up and a new-this-year morning session, Michelon said.

In all, close to 150 golfers will descend on the Glen Tuesday, with two purposes in mind: A little golf camaraderie, of course, but much more importantly to raise funds for the ISCD.

Asael Shabo, by the way, the young teenager who gave that life-altering speech, is now 29 years old and one of the top athletes in the world. He is a Paralympic swimmer, a world-renowned wheelchair basketball player, and a coach at the center mentoring kids just like him.

Today, the ISCD has more than 2,700 active participants, and roughly 400 to 600 kids and athletes in attendance on a given day.

The American Friends of the Sports Center organization officially became a charitable 501c3 organization back in 2012. There are other AFISCD groups throughout the United States, but Chicago has become the most active. Their nationwide headquarters and executive offices are located right here in Northfield.

Maybe best of all is the mission statement of the ISCD. Even though they are physically located in Israel, their stated motto is thus: "Welcoming all, regardless of where you live, how you worship, who you love, or how you navigate your way. The ICSD is what we want the world to be."

A statement and message, if this writer could be so bold to say, is so much needed in the world right now.

A message almost too good for just the sports pages.

For more information on The American Friends of the Israel Sports Center For The Disabled, visit AFISCD.org.

• Jon Cohn of Glenview is a coach, retired PE teacher, sports official and prep sports fan. To contact him with comments or story ideas, email jcsportsandtees@aol.com.

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