Magic Help Refurbish Home Complex Alongside Jr. NBA Athletes

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - Diana Garcia, one of 29 mothers currently living at Aspire Health Partner’s residential campus in Kissimmee for homeless women and their children, was beaming from ear to ear as she strolled around her neighborhood Thursday morning.

Deeply grateful, the 35-year-old mom of four kids, aged between 8 and 15, observed hundreds of volunteers revamping the complex called HOME, which stands for Helping Others Make the Effort.

Jr. NBA Global Championship’s athletes, who are competing this week at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports, were beautifying the outdoor garden, basketball court and playground. Orlando Magic volunteers, including Community Ambassadors Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw, were painting living room walls inside several of the homes.

Throughout her tour of the area, a jubilant Garcia could foresee just how much this refurbishment will help, not only her family but all the others currently living there and those who will move in in the future.

“It’s very touching. It’s very emotional. At the same time, it’s very motivating because they are not only helping us but they came from all different places of the world,” said Garcia, who was living in Texas before relocating to the transitional housing complex. “It’s heartwarming. It lets us know we are not alone and that there are people willing to help.”

Considering Garcia’s two oldest kids are basketball fanatics and the fact that there are presently 60 children living on the property, the newly renovated court could be a game-changer. Many of the kids already got a chance to play on it when the Jr. NBA athletes conducted a basketball clinic for them on that space. Their participation and compassion, as Garcia sees it, will help her children and the others recognize just how important it is to give back.

“This is actually going to help them a lot,” she said. “It inspires them because they are young people helping out. If it inspires me to want to help out, I’m pretty sure it’s going to (for them). They’ve been helping out with the basketball court and with the gardening. My two oldest love basketball, so one of the things they were telling me was, ‘wow, this is amazing how they come all this way and help us out.' So, this is something they will always remember.”

Aspire Health Partners, Florida’s largest Behavioral Health Non-Profit that provides a variety of healthcare services across five Central Florida counties, launched HOME in hopes of breaking the cycle of homelessness by providing housing and supportive services to homeless families. Thursday’s restoration will help empower the families and make it easier for them to focus on their education, careers, and health.

Dr. Philip Toal, Senior Vice President for Residential Services for Aspire, was elated when he learned the NBA and the Magic were planning on coming to lend a helping hand.

“The excitement, and it’s been going on for many months, when talking about preparations for this day was like, ‘hey, the NBA, how cool is that…the Magic, how cool is that,’” he explained.

“It’s like a dream come true,” he added about seeing the Magic contribute. “The exciting thing is it’s not just a one-day event in their lives. We know that it’s something that’s on their minds and in their hearts and in their lives regularly.”

One of those regularly out in the community helping families and children thrive is Anderson, who will be inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame later this year. Through his experience, the more kindness shown, the more likely those being assisted will prosper.

“This is wonderful,” he said. “The most important thing is you’re giving your time and helping those that are a little less fortunate. That’s a special thing.”

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