Jalen Suggs, Moe Wagner and Franz Wagner Among Those to Participate in Amway Corporation’s Thanksgiving Meal Distribution

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - They’ve been in Orlando for less than four months, but already rookies Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner feel well connected to the city. Helping them feel that way is the support they are getting from their Magic coaches and teammates. Confidence is being instilled in them through those internal resources.

But it’s not just the encouragement from within that’s making a big difference. The reinforcements from outside the Amway Center walls is also a factor.

Not only fueling them in the gym, but those cheers are also inspiring them to be community game changers. That in mind, Suggs and Wagner have wasted no time giving back. They, along with Magic center Moe Wagner, who is Franz’s older brother, were outside Orlando’s James R. Smith Center distributing Thanksgiving meals to underserved Central Florida families on Tuesday evening.

“Whenever you are able to give happiness back, for me at least, that brings me happiness,” Suggs said. “To see all these people coming through, and smiling, and getting free meals so they can go back home and prepare with their families and have a great Thanksgiving, I don’t think it gets better than that. Basketball is so minute when it comes to doing these things like this.”

Joining them at the drive-thru event were Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley and several Magic staff members, including Community Ambassadors Bo Outlaw and Nick Anderson. Giving out 450 meals, which included turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green beans, dinner rolls and dessert pie, was made possible thanks to the generosity of Suggs, the Wagners, Amway Corporation, the Magic and Goya.

Having a blast interacting with the crowd, Outlaw was thrilled to see some of the Magic’s younger players already putting their stamp on the community.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “They are new to the community, but also the community gets to see them outside of the court. It’s a great thing to say, ‘oh, he’s part of our community. He’s coming to support our community, so we are really going to support him. He’s new here but he’s still stepping up to want to be here.’”

His favorite Thanksgiving foods yams and macaroni and cheese, Suggs has fond memories of this holiday while growing up in Minnesota. He’d always go to his great-grandmother’s house. They’d all watch football together and after they’d eat, they’d take a long nap.

For the Wagners, Thanksgiving is somewhat new to them. In Germany, it wasn’t part of their culture. The last few years living in America, they’ve come to greatly appreciate this tradition.

Franz Wagner’s favorite Thanksgiving food sweet potato casserole, he and his brother plan on going to one of the coach’s homes to celebrate the holiday. It means a lot to them to be part of the Magic family. When Moe first arrived last April and then when Franz was drafted by the Magic in July, one of the things that really caught their attention was how committed the organization is to the community and how engaged they are. Considering they also value philanthropy, it’s been a perfect match for them both.

“The coolest part about it is that the Magic give you the opportunity to do it and also make it your own,” Franz said. “Not every place it works that way. I think that’s the coolest part. You can sit down with people (in the organization) and talk about what you want to do in the community, and they kind of help you achieve that.”

The way Moe sees it, when all branches of the organization take part in events like the one held Tuesday, good will becomes ingrained in the identity of the team. The people of the community, therefore, can feel that warmth and compassion.

“It’s cool. To give back to the community, you kind of represent the community as well,” he said. “Not only current players, coaches, former players, everybody. It’s like a family culture, and that’s kind of what you represent. It’s really cool to be part of that.”

Tuesday’s event was one of three Thanksgiving meal donations the Magic are involved in this year. Not yet traveling with the team as he continues to rehab his knee, Markelle Fultz was at Eatonville’s Denton Johnson Center last week while the Magic were in the middle of their road trip supplying 300 turkeys, pantry items, and produce to seniors and families in that neighborhood. Fultz’s Magic teammates Wendell Carter Jr. and Chuma Okeke helped support the event.

Fultz also sponsored his annual “Fultzgiving” event in the District of Columbia, where he supplied 200 turkeys, pantry items, and produce for seniors and families in the Emery Heights community.

“He’s been doing it since he was little, so at this juncture in his life, it’s like second nature to him,” said Fultz’s mother Ebony. “It’s engrained in him from birth.”

As part of the Magic’s annual tradition, coach Mosley will sponsor the team's annual Thanksgiving breakfast. More than 25 Magic volunteers including families and staff, Magic CEO Alex Martins, Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman, Anderson, Outlaw and the Magic entertainment teams will serve a Thanksgiving breakfast to the nearly 400 residents at the Coalition for the Homeless and the more than 100 unsheltered homeless individuals from the community. This is the 29th year the Magic will be hosting the breakfast.

“The Magic organization and the (DeVos) family are just so committed to this community and the community of Orlando is just fantastic,” Mosley said. “The people are amazing. The support, the love that they can continue to show. Words don’t describe it. That means so much to us, and that’s why the organization continues to give back. We just feel the love and support.”

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