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Tailing the Komets

This is why I'm so fired up on the MDA

Because of Mark Shepler's son Jonathan. That kid has such an amazing outlook on life he inspires me.

A story I wrote about Mark and Jonathan is continued in the first comment.

If you'd care to contribute to the cause, you can go here:

Posted in: Komets


Blake Sebring
Mon, 05/23/2011 - 1:13pm

Eight months ago, Mark Shepler looked at his son lying in bed and had no idea what to say. His 9-year-old son, Jonathon, was battling pneumonia a few months after being diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and the only thing his father knew absolutely was that he was losing time.
"Jon, you need to get up and walk and get strong," Mark said.
"Dad, I can't walk," Jon said.
Normally - as if there is anything normal about such a hideous disease - those with this form of muscular dystrophy can walk until they are 12 years old before the decline robs their mobility.
"That was heartbreaking because we weren't prepared for it emotionally or financially," Mark said. "We were just not prepared for it yet."
No rulebook tells a father how to relate to a son facing such obstacles. How could they possibly bond without the key tools of athletics many "typical" fathers and sons use? Fortunately, Mark doesn't need to play catch or shoot baskets or pass a puck with his son. All he has to do is listen because Jon keeps saying the right thing. His son shows how their shared love of sports reinforces their love for each other.
In late 2005, Mark and his wife Jodi realized Jon was having trouble walking up stairs. Tests were run, but Jodi already suspected the answer. She was adopted, and the only thing she knew about her beginnings was that muscular dystrophy ran in her biological family. The final diagnosis was a blow.
"I was messed up," Mark said. "Emotionally, I was a wreck. No one can understand."
Mark was so distracted and upset he quit his job, even though he liked it and needed the insurance. He just couldn't handle the stress.
After a month of being unemployed, Mark talked with Bill Franke, owner of Komet Kuarters, who suggested he come to work after Labor Day. The extra time with Jon helped Mark figure out what his life should be about.
"I realized that wasn't the smartest thing to do because he's still Jon," Mark said. "He's still going to grow up and still going to need things."
And he was still going to want to go to Komets games, which have been one of the foundations of the Shepler family. When Mark's father died in 1992, going to Komets games became something Mark, his mother and sisters could do together.
That continued when he and Jodi started dating, and then when Jon and then his brother Blake were born. Jon went to his first game when he was 3 months old, and two years later Blake when he was 3 weeks old.
Jon is a rabid Komets fan. A third-grader at Churubusco Elementary School, Jon has a smile that can outshine the Memorial Coliseum scoreboard, especially when one of the Komets goaltenders makes a big save. He also loves playing hockey with his brother in the Shepler kitchen.
Two days after being informed his son would never walk again, Mark asked Jon if he was disappointed he wouldn't be able to play hockey with his brother.
"Dad, yeah, I will," Jon said. "I'll be the goalie, in my chair."
Jon's positive attitude makes his parents want to cry every time.
"The kid always has a smile on his face and is very upbeat," Churubusco Elementary Principal Nicole Singer said. "He doesn't know a stranger, and the kids always enjoy being with Jon. They don't like Jon because he's different, but because of who he is."
The Komets players like Jon as well. They all know Mark and have an encouraging word when they see him at the store or around the rink. Watching hockey is something that hasn't changed, something everyone in the family enjoys and still loves to do together.
"Because it shows action," Jon said. "It's awesome! When they won, I sang, `We are the champions!'"
"Hey, I like sports, too," Jodi said. "I don't live and breathe them like Mark does, but I like to watch them. That's how Jon's been living his life, through his sports, his love of everything."
Jon races to the computer after school to see when the Komets play next and follow the play of former Fort Wayne players. He's also found an exciting substitute, playing power soccer at Turnstone. Jon, of course, is a goaltender.
"There's so much understanding and happiness involved that we're allowing them the freedom to do things that other kids can do," said his coach, Steve Shoda.
"It's a life lesson as well. It can bring parents closer to their children by sharing something they never thought their child could experience. Just seeing Jonathon's smile is all worth it to me."
Jon played tentatively at first but continues to get better with each practice. After his first practice, Jon told his dad he loved it because it was just like hockey.
"Just because he's in a wheelchair doesn't stop him from anything," his mother said. "He still plays football and baseball in the front yard with his brother. We just tell him, `Jon, whatever you want to do, you can do it. It might take you a little longer, but you can still do it. You can still do anything.'"
His father understands more each day he can still do so many things with his son, especially love hockey and each other. He can still be a hero to his son who is quickly becoming a hero to so many.
"I think he may be an even bigger hockey fan than his dad is," Mark said.

Mon, 05/23/2011 - 4:23pm

Awesome Blake, Thank you so very much. Jonathan is amazing kid. Despite his disability, he has a smile on his face. I know sometimes I look at him and wonder what he is thinking. He wears that smile endlessly, and that inspires me everyday. I love that little boy like there is no tomorrow.

Mon, 05/23/2011 - 4:31pm

John is a total inspiration to anyone who is around him. I could have cared less if Blake sat in the MD Jail. But John's smile reminded me to be thankful and greatful for my six grandkids who are all healthy. Helping Blake than became so important. It was the easiest way to show my appreciation to Blake and all he does for us Bloggers and to help kids like John. It was just the right thing to do. Thank you Blake for the story and for allowing yourself to be used for such a very good cause!

Mon, 05/23/2011 - 4:45pm

Jon, you are an inspiration to many! Keep smiling! :)