Denton: OMYF Distributes $1 Million to Local Charities

By John Denton
January 18, 2012

ORLANDO – For Seminole State College of Florida’s Dr. E. Ann McGee and John Gyllin, simple handshakes weren’t enough to convey their gratitude toward the Orlando Magic and their giving ways on Wednesday.

Both Dr. McGee and Gyllin had hearty hugs for Magic chairman Dan DeVos and CEO Alex Martins after the Foundation for Seminole State College was one of 19 Central Florida organizations to receive grants from the Magic.

In all, the Orlando Magic Youth Fund presented checks totaling $1 million to the 19 different non-profit organizations throughout Orange, Seminole and Osceola Counties. It’s the second consecutive year that the OMYF has given $1 million away, raising the total to approximately $17 million given to local non-profit groups over the past 22 years.

Dressed in Magic blue, Dr. McGee, Seminole State’s president, popped up out of her chair and couldn’t wait to embrace DeVos and Martins after it was announced that SSC’s scholarship programs for disadvantaged students would be receiving a $75,000 grant.

``This is amazing for us. About 25 percent of our students are first-generation students and they need the extra help. This grant from the Magic helps to give them a leg up and it’s almost like an invisible hand behind them, helping them to be successful,’’ Dr. McGee said. ``That’s why I was so excited about this. The Magic are such a powerful organization in this community and we’re all intertwined together. We’re all working to lift everybody because we have a community that works together. And the Magic lead this community.

``You come here and you hope to walk away with some type of (grant money), but for the Magic to invest as much as they did in our vision to help kids be successful in college, that’s huge,’’ Dr. McGee continued. ``So that’s why I was doing the happy dance out there.’’

The day was special also for DeVos, son of Magic owner Rich DeVos, and Martins because they got to see the joy that it brought to many leaders of Central Florida who make a difference in the lives of so many in the community. Dan DeVos said he is most proud of the fact that the Magic are carrying out his father’s wish that the organization make a difference in the community and do whatever it can to make Central Florida a better place for children.

``This means a lot to (Rich DeVos) and that’s what drives him. Making a difference in the community is what he’s all about,’’ Dan DeVos said. ``We’ve learned from him that we’re here to try to make a difference in people’s lives in a lot of different ways. This is one of those ways that we can impact the community in a positive way. … It says a lot about the franchise for the respect that it has for this community and it also says a lot about the community itself. We’re just a vehicle that the community respects and understands and it benefits everybody. Everybody is working together and we’re playing our role.’’

Martins, who has worked on several boards of non-profit organizations in Central Florida, became emotional when talking about the impact that the Magic are able to have in the community, especially as it relates to children. Most of the grant money given out on Wednesday centered around literacy, nutrition and safety for kids and teenagers. Martins said the Magic’s ability to positively impact more than 1 million children and teens through the years brings him tremendous joy.

``I’ve personally worked with some of these folks and served on some of their boards and I know the great work that they do. I also know that some of them are struggling to do the work that they do because of our economic times. I’m grateful that we have the tools and the platform of the OMYF to raise $1 million and distribute it in these challenging economic times and make a difference,’’ Martins said. ``It’s emotional for me too and it’s great to see the smile on their face and the gratitude that they have so that they can keep doing what they do to make this community a better place.’’

Three organizations were the beneficiaries of $100,000 grants: the Orlando Health Foundation (Howard Phillips Center), the Osceola Council on Aging and the Conductive Education Center of Orlando.

The other 2012 grant recipients are: Adult Literacy League ($30,00), Apopka Family Learning Center (Justice & Peace Office) ($53,000), Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida ($75,000), Bridges of Light Foundation ($35,000), Community Coordinated Child Care ($35,000), Early Learning Coalition ($50,000), Foster Grandparent Program ($75,000), Foundation for Orange County Public Schools ($50,000), Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools ($20,000), Foundation for Seminole State College of Florida ($75,000), Foundation of Osceola Education ($20,000), GROWS Literacy Council ($30,000), Hope CommUnity Center ($40,000), Gift of Swimming ($20,000), Boys’ Town of Central Florida ($50,000) and the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida ($42,000).

``We’re thrilled and so excited because we’ve been able to build an entire program based on the funding from the Orlando Magic. So we’re delighted and ecstatic,’’ said Marie Martinez of the Orlando Health Foundation. ``We were a pilot project last year and now we see 5,200 children who come in for services related to learning healthier lifestyles and learning about our `Healthy Me,’ initiative. … We encourage the kids to get moving and make healthier choices.’’

Susan Polder, the Executive Director of Gift of Swimming, said the grant money provided by the Magic will allow her organization to teach swimming lessons to more than 200 disadvantaged youth from Headstart programs in Central Florida. The lessons are one-on-one and young swimmers are taught survival skills such as turning onto their backs and back over face first so that they are completely independent of any floatation device, said Gift of Swimming Vice President Mauree McGinty. The program will provide between 20-25 lessons per child.

Polder said that the Magic’s generosity and commitment to the betterment of the community is just further proof that the organization’s mission goes well beyond winning basketball games. Polder said the Magic are a pillar of the community and the organization clearly cares about making Orlando and Central Florida a better place to live.

``Their commitment to the community makes such a big difference in so many people’s lives,’’ Polder said. ``Their rewards to the people of this community go so far beyond the basketball court and mean a lot to so many people.’’

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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