Michael E. Stephens passed away on July 1 at the age of 73. Stephens had been an advocate of the adaptive sports community for many years and always strived for the best programs, tools and opportunities for rehabilitation programs for the physically disabled. Stephens had been injured himself in 1970 from a car accident. He suffered a long-term spinal-cord injury that changed his life forever.
Like most severe injuries do, it changed Stephen’s life purpose and passion in career and hobby. He wanted to be a great social influencer and make a personal impact on people who had suffered similar injuries. After attending the University of Alabama at Birmingham he became the executive director of the Lakeshore Hospital. He wanted the hospital to offer the best rehabilitation center and eliminate services that tampered with the recovery process.
“With great sadness the NWBA wants to send condolences to Michael Stephen's family. Mr. Stephen passed away on July 1. He has been a profound leader in our community since the 1970s after he suffered a spinal-cord injury. He later started the Lakeshore Foundation and also served on the USOC Leadership Council. He was a tremendous visionary with a lot of passion for rehabilitation and programs that supported the physically disabled. We are very saddened by the news of his passing, keep his family in your thoughts! Mr. Stephen will be missed.” –Sarah Castle NWBA President
Nearly 10 years after starting at the hospital, he became the founder and CEO of the Lakeshore Foundation. He grew the foundation to have 46 rehabilitation facilities in 12 states. He offered sports, recreation fitness and research for all people with physical disabilities.
He created an environment of supportive people, passion driven members and changed the paradigm of rehabilitation world wide. He was later on the Board of Directors for the Lakeshore Foundation and served on the USOC Leadership Council and Chairman’s Circle. He was a supreme visionary, advocate for the community for people with disabilities and angel to those in the rehabilitation programs. He did a tremendous amount for his community, the medical word, adaptive sport and the rehabilitation world. He will be truly missed in our community.
NWBA Hall of Fame Chairman Frank Burns had this to say about the impact Stephens made, “Mike Stephens believed in the power of sport for persons with disabilities during the rehabilitation process, especially for the sport of wheelchair basketball. He taught me as a coach, to train wheelchair athletes, don't try to rehabilitate them as he believed sport participation and competition is therapeutic for everyone. Wheelchair basketball has lost one of its greatest pioneers.”