Big Magic Surprise for Six Courageous Women

By Josh Cohen

ORLANDO -- Often the most gratifying and inspiring stories in sports are when admired athletes overcome the most daunting of challenges. Take Magic Johnson, for instance. Sure, he’s honored for all the MVPs, championships, All-Star Game appearances and other accolades throughout his playing career. But really, his unwillingness to surrender to an assumed-to-be life-ending disease is what’s adored the most.

Or Eric Davis, who didn’t let an unfortunate sickness ruin his love to play baseball. Despite being diagnosed with colon cancer during the 1997 MLB season, Davis would return that same year and hit a game-winning homerun in the playoffs.

It’s that kind of bravery that the Orlando Magic marvel at as well. So much so that they partnered with Florida Hospital recently to honor and reward six amazing women who all overcame an incredibly difficult barrier. And like those star athletes who are applauded and appreciated time and time again for their courage and fortitude, the same can be done for these strong and resilient women.

They each were once breast cancer patients. Now, they are survivors and heroes. And on October 20 at Amway Center when the Magic host the Detroit Pistons in preseason action, they will be acknowledged, each of them, for their big victories.

The honorees of “Pink in the Paint” night – Liz Duncan, Becky Mulligan, Asja Cotton, Jeri Francoeur, Mandy Kimmer and Tai Harden-Moore – learned of this on Thursday, Oct. 3 when Magic Community Ambassadors Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw surprised them with the exciting news.

Not only will all six women attend the game but they also will participate in the Magic’s player introductions and will be recognized at a pregame reception and during a special halftime presentation.

“Now that we have all the awareness and the support it is just so exciting to be a part of it,” said Cotton, who works for Florida Hospital as a mammography technician and is also a personal fitness trainer. “I can’t wait to see STUFF (Magic mascot) dance.”

“I’m filled with emotion, this is really special,” said Mulligan, a breast cancer survivor of four years. “Each day is a blessing and I feel like a stronger person because of what I went through.”

For 25 years, the Magic have assisted in enriching the lives of many throughout Central Florida. Anderson, a Magic legend on the court and an even bigger guidance off of it, has helped aid thousands of people since becoming a Magic community ambassador.

“To put a smile on a face is special,” Anderson said. “Attending these events puts things in perspective about life. I say be grateful, be thankful.”