Ryan DeVos, Orlando Magic's VP of Shareholder Engagement, and wife, Michelle DeVos, present the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida with a $100,000 gift as part of the 30 Grants for 30 Years initiative.

DeVos Family Provides Big Donation to Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida as Part of 30 Grants for 30 Years Initiative

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

ORLANDO - It’s a routine late Thursday afternoon for a few dozen kids in Orlando. Their school session is over for the day, but the learning and confidence-building is continuing at the Jacqueline Bradley and Clarence Otis Branch Boys and Girls Club just down the street from Camping World Stadium.

Upon arrival, they are each given an itinerary. Some of the students are starting out in the cafeteria, where they are provided a nutritious meal. Others are in an art studio to draw and color, which helps them destress. Another dozen kids or so are in the space next door working on STEM education projects.

No matter where in the 31,000 square foot, two-story facility they are stationed, the benefits being there far outweigh the risks of not being there. It’s here where kids from disadvantaged neighborhoods learn from mentors, stay fit, increase motivation, build confidence, stay out of trouble, and feel empowered.

This Boys and Girls Club location is just one of 36 across six Central Florida counties. There are currently around 6,800 club members altogether, and that number will continue to rise, especially now that the DeVos family has made a $100,000 donation to this organization as part of their 30 Grants for 30 Years Initiative.

“I’ve always had great admiration for the DeVos family. It’s been a long history with the Magic. They’ve been great supporters of ours. We are so grateful,” said Gary Cain, president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida. “The needs of children are so great right now. As you look at how kids have been impacted by the pandemic, and particularly kids from stressful circumstances, there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Research shows that club members, who range from 6 to 18 years old, make good choices, stay in school and graduate with the skills and confidence to succeed. Academically, 94 percent of the club’s high school seniors have graduated and over $1 million of college scholarship assistance has been provided. From a health and wellness perspective, 97 percent of teens abstained from smoking cigarettes and marijuana and 92 percent abstained from drinking alcohol. Also, over 30,000 healthy meals are served across the clubs every month and 61 percent of the members exercise at least five days per week.

Interesting, too, is that often the kids develop a passion for helping others in their communities. Last year, more than 83 percent of the club’s members contributed to community service with over 33,000 volunteer service hours performed in total.

Cain, there on this Thursday providing some extra encouragement by cheering the kids on, was a club member himself when he was growing up. Without the support from the Boys and Girls Clubs, he often wonders where he would have ended up.

“My long-term success would not have happened without my club,” he said. “I grew up and my stepdad was an alcoholic, my dad was an alcoholic. (There was) a lot of stress in my family. They did some things and were jailed or died homeless…I learned how to be successful at my club. There, we also read about successful people and the formula, and I was able to develop my social skills and confidence there. In essence, that’s what we do. We are really trying to help children see what’s possible in their lives, give them the encouragement, (and) give them the foundation they need to keep their chin up, sometimes in difficult circumstances.”

Each of the clubs in this area are in neighborhoods that nationally, on average, rank in the ninth percentile for household income and the 83rd percentile for incarceration rates, according to The Opportunity Atlas. The families of the children pay either nothing or a nominal fee for membership.

The Jacqueline Bradley and Clarence Otis Branch Boys and Girls Club features library spaces with a coffee shop-like atmosphere that help kids stay consistent with their reading, a full-size basketball gym, a technology center, a music lab, a dance studio, an art studio, and more.

A total of $3 million will be donated to 30 area nonprofit organizations as part of the DeVos family’s 30 Grants for 30 Years Initiative, which aims to invest in people and projects impacting youth, essential needs for families, and community enrichment across Central Florida.

The late Rich DeVos, who bought the Magic in 1991, always called himself a chief cheerleader, emanating from the compassion he had for others. That mantra is now shared by his entire family, who now continue his legacy with the same philanthropic mindset.

“That was my father. When we first got involved with the team and was able to acquire the franchise, that’s the one thing he said: ‘Don’t call us owners. We’re not owners. We’re caretakers,” Magic Chairman Dan DeVos explained. “Real stakeholders are the community of Central Florida and the fans.”