DeVos, Martins, Howard Contribute to Coalition for the Homeless

By John Denton
February 24, 2012

ORLANDO – Using the NBA All-Star Game as a vehicle to showcase the City of Orlando and the dazzling Amway Center were goals of Magic CEO Alex Martins when he first started trying to secure the marquee event four seasons ago.

But there’s a below-the-radar aspect of basketball’s midseason game – the community impact that the game leaves behind on the host city – that Martins was the most proud of on Friday.

There was Martins, side by side with NBA Commissioner David Stern, Magic Chairman Dan DeVos, Magic franchise center Dwight Howard and New Jersey all-star guard Deron Williams working at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. The group took part in a cooking demonstration in an attempt to teach those at the center how to prepare healthy, long-lasting meals.

And throughout the day, NBA stars, legendary players and executives such as Stern, DeVos and Martins gave their time to spread goodwill to those at the homeless shelter. Stern passed out glasses of juice, while Howard bussed tables, posed for pictures and gave out high fives. Former players Bob Lanier and David Robinson worked respectively in the kitchen and playground areas, passing out food and spreading mulch.

The four-day NBA All-Star Game will allow the state-of-the-art Amway Center to be on display and the event is expected to bring almost $100 million of economic impact to the Central Florida community. But events like Friday’s ``Day of Service’’ is where the truest, most genuine impact can be felt on a city, Martins said.

``We do well by doing good for others. It’s really important for us to try and better the communities which we live in and give back to those who give so much for us,’’ Martins said. ``This has become such a great tradition on the Friday of the all-star break that the NBA and the city hosting the event hold a number of community service activities. They really leave their mark on the city where the All-Star Game is played. It started in New Orleans after (Hurricane) Katrina when the NBA’s players and leaders helped rebuild the Ninth Ward. It’s become a really great tradition.’’

Dan DeVos, son of iconic Magic owner Rich DeVos, said the Magic have also worked to fulfill the mission of his father, who also stressed that the franchise be more than just a basketball team. He said the family is beaming with pride that Orlando will reap the benefits of hosting the NBA’s All-Star Game.

``Having an impact on the community is what we’re all about as an organization. We want to do what we can to give back and that’s not only by providing entertainment in the arena with the All-Star Game, but also making a difference in the community with events like this,’’ said Dan, who noted that Mr. DeVos will be attending the all-star festivities all weekend.

``Hosting this game is something that we’ve been looking forward for a long, long time. Getting this new arena on line was key to it all, so this is a highlight for us,’’ Dan DeVos continued. ``And having this game here in Orlando, it’s a great source of pride for our family. And being able to show off this arena to people around the world is special.’’

Dressed in a NBA Cares T-shirt and heavily involved in passing out food and drinks on Friday, Commissioner Stern said his league takes serious the need to give back to the communities with NBA franchises. Bringing cheer and making life better for those in need is a responsibility the NBA takes seriously, Stern said.

``When you occupy a position in a community the way that sports do, all of our teams and owners feel there’s an obligation to be leaders socially,’’ Stern said. ``We try and act upon it every day. Our players do it, our teams do it and the league office does it and it’s a great use of force with all of our colleagues and it allows us to call attention to difficult problems.’’

Stern also had glowing praise for Howard, who has done nearly as much work in the Orlando community through his charitable foundation as he has on the court with the Magic. Stern said that Howard should be held up as a prime example of what a role model is all about.

``Dwight has been a terrific citizen of the NBA. He works extremely hard on the court, he has his foundation, he works in the community and he sets a great example for all of our players to emulate.’’

As for the impression is making on the rest of the basketball world, Martins said Friday that he’s heard nothing but glowing reviews so far. He thinks that by Sunday night that those in the NBA will see that Orlando is a premier destination because of the hospitality of its citizens and the quality of its arena. That, Martins insisted, should be enough to lock Orlando into a regular rotation for hosting rights to the NBA All-Star Game.

``In the first 24 hours, I’ve already heard nothing but praise for how Orlando has hosted this event. Everyone seems excited to be here and I’m sure the city will really shine,’’ Martins said. ``I think we’ll find ourselves in that regular rotation because everyone from the players, to the owners and sponsors will look forward to coming back here.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com

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