Denton: Dwight Howard Celebrates D12 Foundation Day

By John Denton
February 14, 2012

ORLANDO – Standing at a makeshift foul line behind a pair of inflatable basketball hoops, Dwight Howard never looked happier. With two tiny arms wrapped around his waist and mobs of children just wanting to be close to him, the Orlando Magic’s superstar center seemed to be in his element on Tuesday morning.

Howard’s many charitable works in the community were honored on Tuesday by the City of Orlando and Mayor Buddy Dyer, who proclaimed it to be D12 Foundation Day in Orlando.

Howard celebrated the event by hosting 300 kids from the Parramore Kidz Zone with bounce houses, face painting, clowns and games for the children. Howard, of course, was right in the middle of the kids, posing for pictures, slapping high fives and giving free throw pointers to kids hoisting shots at the inflatable baskets.

In between playing with the kids and getting his own face painted as flashbulbs all around him popped, Howard professed his love for Orlando, saying ``the city that I love the most is the community of Orlando.’’

``When I first got to Orlando one of my goals was to make this a better place for the people who live here,’’ said Howard, whose Magic beat Minnesota on Monday and host the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday. ``I’ve been here eight years and I’ve been able to see a lot of great things happen. It’s been nice to see.’’

The event was also held to kick off the festivities for the NBA All-Star Game, which will be held in Orlando Feb. 24-26. The All-Star Game will be played at Orlando’s Amway Center, while the NBA Jam Session and other festivities will take place at the Orange County Convention Center.

Howard will be at the forefront of the All-Star weekend. He was the league’s top vote-getter to play in the game, garnering 1.6 million votes from fans around the globe. It’s Howard’s sixth all-star nomination and his fifth straight as a starter.

Howard started the D12 Foundation a year ago in an attempt to broaden his influence in the community. A five-time winner of the Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award, Howard has done as much off the court as any player in Magic history. His foundation has supported several non-profit organizations throughout the Central Florida area, and some of them, such as Florida Hospital for Children and the Beta Center, have named wings of their facility after Howard because of his contributions.

Dyer, who was on hand to issue the proclamation of D12 Foundation Day, lauded the Magic’s superstar center for his work in the community.

``He’s meant a lot on the court to the Magic, but he’s meant so much to our community off the court as well,’’ Dyer said of Howard. ``A lot of times you have athletes that aren’t role models, but Dwight has such good character and he’s a nice guy. He contributes to our community and he’s so fun to be around.’’

Phillip Gordon, a product of the Parramore Kidz Zone, is one of the people that Howard had a direct impact on. Gordon, 21, first met Howard six years ago at the Parramore Kidz Zone and was told that he could accomplish anything in life. Gordon said the PKZ gave him a safe place to hang out after school, and the experience there was enhanced by the contributions Howard made to the Teen Shack. The facility was able to buy computers, video games and flat-screen TVs with the money donated by Howard.

These days, Gordon is a junior at the University of Central Florida majoring in Criminal Justice. He hopes to someday become a police officer and make a difference in the Parramore district much the same way that Howard did with him.

``Before Dwight came in and spoke to us about chasing our dreams I wanted to go to college, but didn’t know if I could do it. His motivational speeches motivated me to go farther in life. Where I am now I owe to Dwight,’’ Gordon said. ``Not everybody is going to turn out being the kid who wants to go to (college). But having Dwight talk to kids like me, it motivated me to stay on track and follow my dreams. He helped me so much.’’

Dyer, for one, hopes that Howard continues to help kids in the Orlando area for years to come. That, of course, would mean him signing a long-term contract extension with the Magic in July.

``I’m hoping that Dwight is a long-time City of Orlando resident,’’ Dyer said with a chuckle. ``He said today that Orlando is his very favorite city, so I hope that he’s with the Orlando Magic for a long time.’’

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

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