Denton: Nelson Wins 2012-13 Rich & Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award

By John Denton
March 23, 2013

ORLANDO – When he had the chance to leave last summer via free agency, Jameer Nelson chose to stay in Orlando with the Magic. Nelson said not only could he not envision himself playing in another uniform, but he also didn’t want to leave a Magic fan base that has supported him for nine seasons.

Nelson’s loyalty to the Magic and his commitment to the Orlando community were rewarded on Saturday night when he was named the winner of the 2012-13 Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment award at the 23rd annual Orlando Magic Youth Foundation Black Tie & Tennies Gala presented by FAIRWINDS Credit Union.

The OMYF honors a player who has dedicated his efforts off the court for the purpose of enhancing other’s lives. A panel of external representatives selected Nelson as the winner. In addition to receiving the award, Nelson was granted $50,000 from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation to donate to the charity of his choice.

``It’s definitely an honor and it says a lot about what we’re about as an organization and a team and who Mr. (Rich) DeVos is as a person and what he does for the community,’’ Nelson said as he manned a photo booth along with fans during the gala.

It was the second time that Nelson has been a finalist for the award. Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis was also a finalist for Saturday night’s award.

Legendary Magic owner Rich DeVos and Chairman Dan DeVos were on hand to present the Community Enrichment award to Nelson. Rich DeVos told the crowd the story of how he and his wife wanted to reward a Magic player for giving back and how they received special permission from the NBA League Office to be able to award the $50,000 prize for players to award to their charities.

The Black Tie and Tennies gala is the biggest fund-raiser for the OMYF. For a third straight year the OMYF gave out $1 million to 17 local non-profit organizations throughout Central Florida.

Every dollar raised on Saturday night receives a 50-cent match through the McCormick Foundation Fund. Magic CEO Alex Martins put the hard sell on the 700 people at the event, coaxing them to use their smart phones to donate to the cause and ultimately $30,000 was raised on the spot. Another $42,500 was raised by auctioning off items such as dinner with Davis, a trip to the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, a trip to the ESPN ESPY award, a five-night stay in Paris for the LeCordon Blue Culinary Academy and four-night stay at Royal St. Andrews to play golf.

Other silent auctions and donations made the night a smashing success for the OMYF. Martins stressed that the Magic’s mission is to be champions on and off the court while striving to make a difference in people’s lives.

``The Orlando Magic are built to be a cornerstone of this community,’’ Martins said. ``When the team succeeds, this community succeeds. And when a community succeeds, we are all winners. This philosophy permeates the entire organization, especially through our players. Our players understand the responsibility that they have not only on the court, but off. They know how many children look to them as role models and how important it is to be stewards of this great community.’’

Nelson is the longest-tenured Magic player on the roster, spending his entire nine-year career in Orlando. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in assists (2,999). In 580 career games with the Magic, he has averaged 12.6 points and 5.2 rebounds a game. This season, he’s averaging 14.7 points – his highest total in four seasons – and 7.3 assists – the most of his career.

Nelson has consistently volunteered his time off the court and to the Central Florida community supporting the initiatives of the Magic’s community relations department, the OMYF and the NBA. Highlights of his community involvement for the 2012-13 season include:

  • Helped feed more than 600 homeless men, women and children at the Magic’s Thanksgiving breakfast at the Coalition for the Homeless.
  • Hosted a surprise event and provided holiday gifts for two local families of six affiliated with OCPS Homeless Division. Gifts for each family included laptops, cell phones, Nintendo DS system, games, toys, and gift cards for both families to purchase essential needs.
  • Participated in pregame meet n’ greets with terminally ill children.
  • Works with After School All-Stars in promoting comprehensive after school programs which assist disadvantaged youth in the community.
  • Participated in the Player Ticket Program by purchasing over 600 tickets for children at Elevate Orlando to attend Magic home games.
``This is especially for the fans who see who we are as people,’’ Nelson said of winning the Community Enrichment award. ``When we go into the community for events, it’s great. It’s not about the money or anything; it’s more about the time and doing things in this community as people. Being able to do things for people it just an extra incentive for us.’’

Past winners of the award include Nick Anderson (1995-1996), Penny Hardaway (1996-1997), Darrell Armstrong (1997-1998, 1999-2000), Grant Hill (2000-2001), Monty Williams (2001-2002), Tracy McGrady (2002-2003), Pat Garrity (2003-2004), Bo Outlaw (1998-1999, 2005-2006, 2006-2007), Dwight Howard (2004-05, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12) and J.J. Redick (2011-12).

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