Chuma Okeke Participates in Basketball Clinic as Part of Youth Skills Training Program

Magic, PepsiCo, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida and CTG Foundation team up to encourage local kids
by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - The last 16 months have certainly been a challenging time for Americans. The ongoing health crisis, political divide, the economic suffering caused by the pandemic and social justice issues have led to a great deal of pain, frustration and hardships for so many individuals and families.

Children are unfortunately having to breathe all that in while working toward their goals in and out of the classroom, which is why it is absolutely critical for them to have positive role models in their corner to guide them and keep them feeling physically and mentally strong.

Helping provide that spirit and encouragement are organizations that prioritize giving back to their communities. Several of them are doing just that as a team in Orlando, as the Magic, PepsiCo, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida and the Close the Gap (CTG) Foundation are collaborating on a youth mentoring program to teach kids valuable life and leadership lessons.

One of the highlights of the program took place on Thursday at the OCPS Academic Center for Excellence, where Magic forward Chuma Okeke participated in a basketball clinic for the Boys & Girls Club kids directed by the National Basketball Academy.

“This is a real good opportunity for me just to give back to the community,” he said. “I remember going to basketball camps when I was young back in Atlanta. We had Dwight Howard at our camp. Just to see NBA players come back and supporting the community, giving back. That just gives people hope.”

Supporting communities around the country through youth mentorship programs, law enforcement training, and domestic abuse support, the CTG Foundation reached out to the Magic and Pepsi shortly after the tragic death of George Floyd and the civil unrest that followed. It was an instant connection, as they moved forward with a plan to lift up youth with a series of grassroots initiatives, including teaching basketball drills and life skills.

Richard Baker, a retired New York City Police Department detective and former United States marine and currently the founder and CEO of the CTG Foundation, has seen first-hand the power sports has and how it can steer youth in positive directions. The hope by the end of the program is that the coaching – not just on the court but off of it as well – will enrich their minds and inspire them to reach their full potential.

“We wanted to use sports. Sports typically pulls people from all corners of life for a common goal. We all just want to have fun,” he said. “We are doing basketball skills during the day and life skills after. Stuff they are not learning in school. We are talking about their life, their past, what it takes to get where you got to go. The big one we are doing is working with their psyche. We are letting them know that you are not a product of your circumstances and how to rise above it and not be a victim. We are teaching them how to make good decisions and how to be a leader within your immediate circle and we are just providing them support every step of the way.”

Magic Community Ambassadors Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw also participated in the program. They made an appearance at an earlier session and brought their usual enthusiasm to the room.

“That just shows the Magic’s commitment,” Baker said of having Okeke, Anderson and Outlaw involved to provide a boost. “When the stars come out, it adds another layer for the kids. They absolutely love it.”

Partnering with the Magic is something PepsiCo is always eager to do because they share the same vision and goals for a stronger, healthier and more vibrant community. Through their Pepsi Strong Together program, they have been able to assist many individuals, families and businesses by working with others to tackle timely issues related to education, the environment, police-community relations and much more.

"We are proud to be here today with the Orlando Magic, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, and the Close the Gap Foundation. Our summer basketball camp series will provide valuable lessons not just in sports, but in leadership and life," said Derek Lewis, President, South Division, of PepsiCo Beverages NA.


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