OMYF Community Spotlight: Osceola County’s Education Foundation

By John Denton
June 30, 2011

ORLANDO – The way Kathy Carr sees it, the Orlando Magic are not only reinvesting in their community with their grant money for Osceola County’s Education Foundation; the Magic are most importantly shaping the lives of children and giving them hope for the future, Carr said.

By giving a $20,000 grant to the Education Foundation’s Bookmark Buddies Club, the Magic are enabling the Osceola County schools to aid third-graders who are struggling with their reading. Of the 300 kids who participated in the program last year, 97 percent of them went on to pass the F-CAT and advanced in school.

But teaching children reading skills appropriate for their age levels extends well beyond performance on a standardized test. It also gives them a better chance at having a successful life, said Carr, the Executive Director of Osceola’s Education Foundation.

``The thing that I think is particularly neat is that this says to me that the Magic care about the future of the kids and not just what is happening to them in the moment. This says that they want to help change kids lives so that they will have a better future,’’ Carr said. ``We know through research that most kids who end up incarcerated can’t read. So by saving these children early on and turning their reading around and giving them the ability to learn all of the other courses in school it changes their lives.

``And another part of this is if you are a third-grader and you can’t read then it really destroys your self-esteem and the other kids are making fun of you,’’ Carr continued. ``So all of the issues of getting behind in school, not being able to read and having low self-esteem, all of them send kids in a wrong direction. By changing this one little thing in the third grade you can make all the difference in the world for these kids. So I really feel like the Magic are changing our children’s lives.’’

The Osceola County Education Foundation is one of 19 Central Florida organizations presented grants by the OMYF as a part of the Magic’s community outreach initiative. Over the last 21 years, the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation has distributed more than $16 million to local non-profit community organizations. The OMYF raises community dollars annually through donations, auctions and events such as the Black Tie and Tennies Gala and the OMYF Golf Tournament with matching funds at $0.50 on the dollar provided by the McCormick Foundation.

In 2011, in addition to presenting checks totaling $1 million to 19 non-profit organizations, the OMYF also awarded two college scholarships totaling $30,000. To learn more, visit

``We are proud to be able to assist organizations who are in need during these tough economic times,’’ Orlando Magic President Alex Martins said. ``It is only possible through a collaborative effort of the DeVos family, this community, our players, coaches, staff, corporate partners and season ticket holders that we are capable of distributing $1 million this year. Most importantly we want to recognize and thank those who work every day with the youth of our community … they are the true heroes.’’

The 2011 grant recipients from OMYF: Adult Literacy League, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, Boys’ Town of Central Florida, Coalition for the Homeless, Conductive Education Center of Orlando, Crealde School of Art, Education Foundation-Osceola County, Elevate Orlando, Foundation for Orange County Public Schools, Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools, Hebni Nutrition Consultants, Hope Foundation for the Homeless, Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando, Orlando Ballet, Florida Hospital for Children, Harbor House of Central Florida, Hope Community Center, Howard Phillips Center for Children and Families and the Valencia Community College Foundation.

Osceola County’s Bookmark Buddies Club targets third-graders who are on the cusp of reading and they just need a little help. Often, when those students get some personalized tutoring and one-on-one attention, they can make the strides necessary to read on a third-grade level.

The students are matched up with a staffer who specifically works with them to teach to sound out words and comprehend sentences. The three staff tutors work on a part-time basis, covering several schools in the Osceola County school district.

Carr said without the grant money from the Magic the program would likely die out because of a lack of funding. She shudders at the thought of what might happen to some of the children in the program without learning how to read at a young age.

``This is for the kids that probably just don’t have anybody at home reading to them and somebody who is focusing attention on them. These kids have the ability there, but they just need an adult to help them find it,’’ Carr said. ``Right now with the economy the way that it is, we’d probably have to limit the program without the Magic’s help. This grant is a huge component of our funding and it’s really helped a lot. With donations down it’s really been a tough year and we’re very thankful for the Magic funding this project because it’s so important for our kids.’’

John Denton writes for E-mail John at Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at