When the Denver U16 Boys Basketball Team took on Las Vegas, Team Denver was leading by 12 points in the fourth quarter. What followed was unbelievable.

Las Vegas subbed in Gabriel Hafter, a young athlete who suffers from Treacher Collins Syndrome, which causes him to have a soft bone structure so he is unable to play sports. Gabriel didn’t have a Vegas jersey to wear, so Denver’s Ben Rover took off his jersey and gave it to him. Gabriel dribbled up, guarded by Denver’s Adam Merenstein, and pulled up for a three.

He drained it.

The entire gym—his team, Denver’s team, both benches, the coaches, the referees and everyone else watching—erupted in applause and cheering.

Gabriel showed us just how good he would be if he could play basketball regularly. He became a celebrity among the Denver delegation, everyone wanted to meet him. Gabriel now has Ben’s jersey, as well as contact information of each person on the team and myself, and he has since become friends with many of the athletes on Denver’s team.

The day after the game, Team Las Vegas’ flights were delayed and they had to spend the night in Denver. Immediately, many members of Team Denver contacted their parents to offer up their homes.

Compassion, kindness, and inclusivity are all core at the Maccabi Games, and during this particular moment, we witnessed all three happen at once.

Adam Slosky, U-16 Maccabi Games Tennis Player

Adam Slosky

On behalf of the Denver J, the JCC Maccabi Games program and myself, I want to thank everyone for their support this year.  We had a fantastic and successful time in Birmingham, Alabama!

We were successful in surviving the heat. We were successful in getting 49 athletes and six volunteer coaches to Birmingham via a bus from Nashville and then home after a 12-hour travel day due to weather diversions and delays.

We were successful in two athletes receiving Middot medals from other delegations for either competing with a great attitude or helping out another athlete.

And most importantly to me, Denver athletes not only made friends and interacted with each other more than I have ever seen, but they met and befriended kids from all over the country. The interaction is very special to watch. This Delegation made compassion, kindness, and inclusivity their core values.

Team Denver happened this year because we received the support of our community. I truly believe this program has a lasting impact on our teens by encouraging a Jewish identity through sports, encouraging the feeling of being part of a broader Jewish community, and creating a very positive association with the JCC.

Jodi Asarch, Delegation Head, JCC Maccabi Games

2017 Team Denver Medal Count

  • Gold Medal—U16 Soccer
  • Gold Medal—U16  Boys Tennis
  • Silver Medal—U16 Baseball Boys (Mixed Team)
  • Bronze Medal—Flag Football
  • 45 Medals in Swimming, Golf, and Track & Field