Orlando Magic Youth Foundation Distributes $1 Million to 27 Central Florida Organizations

By John Denton
Jan. 23, 2018

ORLANDO – As he was handing out grant money totaling $1.04 million to 27 non-profit organizations working to make a difference in the lives of children in the Central Florida area, Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins couldn’t help but think about how proud Helen DeVos would have been on Tuesday.

After all, Mrs. DeVos – the late wife of legendary Magic owner Rich DeVos – lived a life dedicated to philanthropy and giving back to others in need. For that reason, she was on the minds of many on Tuesday at the Amway Center, namely Martins.

``She was the matriarch of this team and she taught us about how to give back and philanthropy, and this (Orlando Magic Youth) Foundation was really developed on her shoulders,’’ Martins said of Mrs. DeVos, who died on Oct. 18 at the age of 90. ``So, she’s on our minds all the time, particularly when we have the opportunity to give back. She’s the one who taught us how to do this and we’ll continue to do it in her memory.’’

With the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation giving away the $1.04 million on Tuesday, it was the 10th time that at least $1 million has been awarded to local non-profit organizations. In the past 28 years, OMYF has distributed more than $23 million to local organizations dedicated to bettering the lives of those in need in Central Florida.

``One of the fundamentals of my parents and our family has always been us giving back with time, treasure or whatever you have,’’ said Magic Chairman Dan DeVos, son of Rich and Helen DeVos. ``It is incredibly important because we all benefit so much from this great community. The excitement of the individuals each year during this ceremony is real because they know all the difference this makes in the community through their organizations. This is a very exciting time for us.’’

It was also a very exciting time for Betsey Bell, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Foster Children. That organization, which provides educational and cultural event programs to foster children and foster families, received a $100,000 grant from OMYF. Bell had to wait until the end of the ceremony held on the court at the Amway Center and she said she was nearly brought to tears when she heard the grant amount because of the impact it will have on children and families in great need.

``We’re so incredibly honored by this and knowing what this will do for our kids and being able to support them more, so this is very surprising and exciting. We know the end result of this (grant money) is going to be amazing,’’ Bell said. ``There are a lot of kids in foster care and many of them are far behind in school and this $100,000 will allow us to be able to personally support kids. Many times, they feel like a number and we can invest in people to love, coach and mentor the kids and allow them to catch up and graduate from high school.’’

Bell said the financial assistance from OMYF is the largest grant the organization has ever received, and it will make up approximately 10 percent of the operating budget for next year. Also, because of the $100,000 grant, the Foundation for Foster Children will be able to expand into Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties and provide more relief to children in foster care.

``This will give our kids every chance they can get to succeed and pursue their futures,’’ Bell said. ``This is the biggest grant we’ve ever gotten and it’s an incredible 10th anniversary gift that we’re super excited about.’’

Grantees had to go through a five-phase process that started last April. The grant-winning organizations recommended by the OMYF board must then be approved by the McCormick Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Other organizations receiving grant money on Tuesday from OMYF include: Adult Literacy League ($40,000); Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida ($50,000); Children’s Home Society of Florida ($30,000); City Year Orlando ($30,000); Crealde School of Art ($15,000); Early Learning Coalition of Orange County ($50,000); ELEVATE Orlando ($30,000); Florida Hospital for Children ($50,000); Foundation for Orange County Public Schools ($25,000); Foundation for Foster Children ($100,000); Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools ($20,000); Foundation for Seminole State College of Florida ($50,000); Harbor House of Central Florida ($25,000); Hope Community Center ($40,000); IMPOWER ($20,000); Junior Achievement of Central Florida ($50,000); Orlando Ballet ($20,000); Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra ($20,000); Orlando Repertory Theatre ($20,000); Orlando Science Center ($30,000); Orlando Shakespeare Theater ($20,000); The Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families ($29,000); The Nemours Foundation ($50,000); University of Central Florida Foundation ($50,000); Valencia College Foundation ($50,000); YMCA of Central Florida ($40,000); Zebra Coalition ($50,000).

Kenneth Bentley, a Community Educator, was on hand Tuesday to represent the Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools. His organization’s ``Last, Best Chance Program’’ is based in Sanford and, more specifically, the Goldsboro community, and it is designed to help children finish high school, recover lost credits and provide mentoring, tutoring and character-building skills. Additionally, the program helps fund visits to college campuses for students who otherwise couldn’t afford to do so. SCPS received a $20,000 grant on Tuesday and Bentley said the Magic should be celebrated for their giving nature.

``This money is great and we’re changing kids’ lives, but the Magic are changing their lives too because they are giving out money to continue with programs like this,’’ Bentley said. ``This says a lot about the Magic. It says they are here for the community and they are here for us. They’re not just a professional basketball team; they are partners in this community. That means a lot to all of us.’’

Debi Pedraza, the Senior Director of the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools, said he favorite part of the annual OMYF event is the focus on helping brighten the futures of children in Central Florida. Pedraza said the Magic and the many non-profit organizations throughout Central Florida that work daily to help children should be lauded.

``These kids are our future and this is an investment in the whole community for tomorrow,’’ said Pedraza, whose OCPS Foundation received $25,000 for its Read2Succeed program that will promote literacy and reading comprehension in elementary-school students. ``(All the organizations) know each other and we know each other’s work and there are lots of hugs and congratulations. Everyone – including the Magic – deserve the support and what I love about our community is the way we wrap our arms around each other, especially the kids. That’s what the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation is all about.’’

Providing better futures for children was certainly something that Mrs. DeVos pushed for from the time her family purchased the Magic in September of 1991. Martins kept thinking of Mrs. DeVos on Tuesday and how delighted she would be about the work the Magic and many in the Central Florida area are doing in investing in the children.

``This is what Rich and Helen were always all about and this is what their family is all about,’’ Martins said of the Magic’s push for making a difference in the community. ``This is what Mrs. DeVos lived for – giving back in this community and giving back in the Grand Rapids (Mich.) community. This is a day, I’m sure, that she was smiling upon us for all the great work being done.’’

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