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Friday, August 29, 2014

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Sports celebrities headline Maccabi fundraising event

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Some of Canada’s best known sports personalities headlined Maccabi Canada’s “Sports Unplugged” event last week. Seen here, from left, Gord Kirke, Nelson Millman, Elliotte Friedman, Mike Wilner, Steve Simmonds, Maccabi Canada President Tom Bacher, Dan Shulman, Shi Davidi and Michael Landsberg. [Ben Katan photograph]

Some of Canada’s best-known sportscasters, radio and television personalities gathered on behalf of Maccabi Canada last week in a Sports Unplugged fundraising event.

Hosted by Dan Shulman, ESPN’s play-by-play commentator for Major League Baseball and the NBA, Sports Unplugged included Michael Landsberg (TSN), Elliotte Friedman (CBC), Steve Simmons (Toronto Sun), Mike Wilner (Blue Jays radio broadcaster), Shi Davidi (Rogers Sportsnet), Gord Kirke (sports lawyer) and Nelson Millman (executive producer for radio at the 2012 Olympics).

The commentators were divided into groups of four and faced off against each other in debates on sports issues – a format similar to TSN’s Off the Record, which Landsberg hosts. They discussed the New Orleans Saints’ bounty-hunting scandal, the Blue Jays’ chances in 2012 and the role of the media in the firing of Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson.

The highly opinionated personalities presented their views on the issues, but the central message conveyed to the 350 onlookers was that Maccabi Canada is an organization worthy of their support.

Maccabi Canada president Tom Bacher, himself a former softball player at the Maccabiah Games, said that “events like this get our name out there in the community and create the reputation [of Maccabi] as an organization that does things first class.”

Spectators paid $200 each for the privilege of attending the event, held at Le Parc in Markham. Altogether, as much as $80,000 was raised, with funds earmarked for Maccabi Canada’s “adopt an athlete” program. The money will go to help underwrite the cost of bringing athletes to the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel. Funds will help at least 50 athletes attend the competition, Bacher said.

Sports Unplugged is one of several programs on the Maccabi calendar and is slated to become an annual event, Bacher said.

In June, Maccabi Canada will host a picnic and sports challenge at Camp Robin Hood. Other events include a bridge tournament and participation in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Oct. 14.

In introducing his fellow panelists, Shulman described his participation in the Pan American Maccabi Games, held over the winter holidays in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The Pan Am Maccabi attracted athletes from Canada, Brazil, the United States, Australia, Israel, South Africa, Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, Panama and other countries.

Shulman was part of the masters basketball team that won a bronze medal while upsetting the highly favoured Brazilian team on their home court. He raved about his experience at the Games, and in particular, the game versus Brazil, when other Canadian athletes and delegation members crowded into a Brazilian gym to cheer on the Canadians.

“It’s a moment that will stay with us for the rest of our lives,” he said.

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