Mike Simmel is no stranger to childhood adversity, diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of two he was placed in Special Ed Gym class because he could not hop, skip, or jump. He understands firsthand the stigma that comes with childhood medical issues. Detailed in his book Mighty Mike Bounces Back, he turned the jeers into cheers. He experienced a child’s hurt and despair when friends “make fun” and bully you simply because you have a perceived disability ” the label – the stigma”.
Since 2001 Mike has been a member of the world famous Harlem Wizards show basketball team thrilling people all over the world with the show name “Mighty Mike:”. At 5’9″ and with the need to take 7 medications per day, you would say impressive but there is a lot about Mike you should know. One thing you gain immediately, kids relate to Mike and Mike relates to kids.
He has received many honors including the very prestigious 2009 TOYA Award by the US Jaycees as one of the 10 Outstanding Young Americans. He runs his own enterprise Mighty Mike Basketball. His journey has taken many bounces some harder then others but through it all Mike discovered the uncanny ability to overcome labels people will give you because they think / believe you are different.
Born in Glendale, CA, Mike developed epilepsy at the age of 2. As his family moved to NJ, he struggled as a youth and was debilitated to the point where he could not participate in “regular” activities. Mike could not do the simple things other kids could do, like hop on one leg or skip, because of his condition. Young Mike could not eat normal meals at the dinner table or with sharp utensils and even needed helped going to the bathroom, for fear that, his head would smack downward and he would get hurt, as a result of a violent seizure. In school, he was placed in special education gym class because of his slow motor skills and development.
Mike out grew his early “drop attacks” at age 7, and his father gave him a basketball to see if his coordination could develop. It worked and Mike dreamed big. Years later at age 16, when he was at a basketball camp, he had an epileptic seizure, his first major grand mal attack in nearly 10 years. The camp nearly and unsuccessfully tried to have him removed. That incident would change him forever, as he knew that one day he wanted to give back to other young people who felt as isolated as he did in that situation. Mike continued to have epileptic seizures in high school in the form of grand mal and petit mal seizures. Still he was a 3 year varsity starter, standout point guard, captain, and graduate of Don Bosco Prep. He later was a team captain and assist leader at the prestigious Hun School of Princeton as a postgraduate student. His bouts with seizures would continue through college, which led him down a tough road where he would eventually finish and get his degree at SUNY Purchase, a 2 year captain, assist and steals leader. Fortunately, despite dealing with epilepsy and bipolar disorder, which could have forced him to walk away from the court all together, Mike has been able to overcome all obstacles and be quite successful on the basketball circuit
|He currently takes medications, is seizure free and a model picture of healthy living.Mike currently is a member of the world-famous entertainment basketball team, the Harlem Wizards, since 2001.This former NY Knicks ball-boy has also been featured on FOX-TV, PBS, RNN-News, MSG and CBS-College Sports Network as well as other local TV news shows. Radio appearances include Disney Radio, ESPN Radio, Bloomberg Radio, and Disability Matters on voiceamerica.com.Mike even performed live on NBC’s It’s Showtime at the Apollo, at the NBA’s Rhythm n’ Rims Festival and at the 2009 NCAA Men’s Final Four Celebration.|
|He also performs one-man halftime shows and is a leading speaker at summer basketball camps across the country speaking at over 450 camps throughout the past 10 years. Mike is also a national spokesperson for Epilepsy Awareness speaking at Epilepsy Foundation events special camps all across the country. This includes, each year speaking and performing to youth and families from across the country in Washington, D.C. at the National Kids Speak Up and Public Policy Institute. Mike was also a national spokesman for Eisai Pharmaceuticals from 2004-06 for their Changing Faces of Epilepsy Campaign, and in 2006-07 was a national spokesman for Abbott Laboratories pharmaceutical company on childhood epilepsy. In 2005, he created the Bounce Out the Stigma Project to empower young people, especially those with special needs through healthy lifestyles and improved self confidence.|
|On August 14, 2007, Mike was honored and given the Maxwell J. Schleifer Distinguished Service Award by Exceptional Parent Magazine and the New York Yankees for his contributions to the special needs community during their annual Disability Awareness Night at Yankee Stadium.And on May 2009, he was honored by the Governor of New Jersey at a special luncheon for his work with excellence in the advancement of recreation and people having disabilities, with the Alvin Slootsky Award.During a ceremony in September 2009 he was honored with the prestigious TOYA Award, as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans, by the United States Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce). In addition, in November 2009, Mike was given the Connecticut Outstanding Young American Award by the Connecticut Jaycees for his work on and off the basketball court.|
|In September 2011, a children’s book based upon the life of Mike Simmel entitled Mighty Mike Bounces Back was published and released both online and in bookstores by Magination Press, an imprint of the American Psychological Association. For more background information on “Mighty Mike” Simmel, including news articles and scheduling, check out his comprehensive website Mighty Mike Basketball
Besides his passion and vision,what Mike brings to this program is a sense of knowing who he is and what he hopes to accomplish. Mike relates to the kids and the kids relate to him. Mike was a kid who was placed in special gym class in grammar school because he could not hop, skip. jump! Overcoming the challenges of epilepsy physically is sometimes easier than overcoming the limits others are all to willing to place on kids. Mike had “the label” BEFORE he could read!Mike works daily and lives our mission . . .
|In May 2013, Mike was honored by New York’s Children’s Hospital of Montefiore with the Outstanding Citizenship Award for his work on the court and in the community. He was cited for his dedication to motivating special needs children to believe in themselves.
“Limits Will Not Define Me,
Enjoy a few videos of Mike Discussing his Book “Mighty Mike Bounces Back” and a Short Half Time Clip