Denton: Vaughn, Magic Players and Staff Help Fight Child Hunger

By John Denton
March 13, 2013

ORLANDO -- Still somewhat reeling from his team’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers a night earlier, Orlando Magic Head Coach Jacque Vaughn’s spirits perked up on Wednesday when he helped make a real-life difference for several thousands of local school children.

Vaughn, Magic players Al Harrington and Kyle O’Quinn and more than 300 staffers from the Magic and UnitedHealthcare convened on Wednesday to pack Hi-Five Kids Packs for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. The work done by the Magic coaching staff, players and employees is expected to have a major impact in helping to fight hunger among children in a three-county area of Central Florida. The food packs will feed more than 13,500 students throughout Central Florida.

The mission is to help feed children over weekends when they don’t have access to school cafeterias. Often being without readily available healthy food sources leads to childhood obesity. Households with limited resources often try to stretch budgets by purchasing inexpensive foods that are filling, but often not very healthy for growing children. According to research done by the University of South Florida, nearly one in three children in Florida are either overweight or obese.

Vaughn spent more than two hours going through an assembly line on Wednesday where he packed cereal, chocolate milk, fruit juice, apple sauce, snack bars and canned beef stew. And Vaughn did so with a smile while coaching up others in his line on how to quickly and properly pack the supplies.

“It’s unbelievable how fortunate we are and sometimes we lose grasp of how fortunate we are,” Vaughn said. “There are kids out there who sometimes don’t have food to eat over the weekend. And for us to be able to do something as small as giving our time when it means so much to somebody else, I just think it’s great.”

Several members of Hungerford Elementary School helped assemble the bags of food supplies and also spent time joking around and playing games with O’Quinn and Harrington. O’Quinn, Orlando’s rookie center, said seeing the children’s smiling faces and knowing he was helping to make a difference in the lives of other kids helped take the sting out of Tuesday night’s loss to the Lakers.

“When you are playing in the NBA you want to give back any way that you can. The kids are here interacting with us and having fun and it’s all for a good cause, so it’s great what we’re doing to help,” said O’Quinn, who buried two long jumper and had two assists in Tuesday’s game. “Of course, that loss hurt us, but you come here and you look at what the real world is all about. Basketball is not everything. Basketball is just an outlet, and we’re using basketball to help people. I’m just really proud that I get to be a part of giving back like this.”

The Hi-Five Kids Packs Program is the latest in UnitedHealthcare’s “Do Good. Live Well.” employee volunteer initiative, whose mission is to prevent hunger and obesity, inspire service and encourage volunteerism in communities where UnitedHealthcare employees live and work. The Magic are also committed to the youth of Central Florida, serving more than 75,000 children annually with a focus on health and wellness, education, and the arts.

“We know how important a simple, healthy meal can be for any child and the direct impact that can have on their education and future,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “We are proud to work together as a staff and with our partner UnitedHealthcare to provide youth in our area with healthy food and assist in the fight against hunger in our community.”

Both Vaughn and O’Quinn said they were proud to work and play for a Magic organization that is committed to making a difference in the community. Vaughn said the emphasis of doing work in the community is a direct reflection of the missions of legendary Magic owner Rich DeVos.

“It’s really about this franchise’s actions backing up their words,” Vaughn said of a Magic organization that has given more than $18 million through its foundation initiatives over the past 23 years. “And it’s not like they just started doing (the community work); they’ve been doing it a long time for this community. The giving back is something that is meaningful to this organization, the DeVos family and for everybody who works for this team.”

O’Quinn said that Magic players and staffers know that making a difference in the community is just as important as the work that the team does on the basketball floor at the Amway Center.

“It says a lot about what this organization is all about from the top to the bottom. All the way from the DeVos family, they set a plan for their staff to give back to the community,” O’Quinn stressed. “We take being in the community as serious as we do being at the Amway Center. With this team, you know you will see us on the court and in the community as well. It’s great.”

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