ORLANDO - It’s just simply in Markelle Fultz’s nature to assist.
On the court, he’s always looking for his teammates, which is why since returning to the lineup he has the NBA’s second-best per-36-minute assist average.
Off it, he has the same exact mindset. Ever since joining the Orlando Magic in Feb. 2019, Fultz has gone above and beyond to assist others in Central Florida, as well as in the Washington metropolitan area where he grew up.
Some players while going through a lengthy rehab after a severe injury would have disappeared. Not Fultz, who despite being unable to play for nearly 14 months was more visible than ever in the community.
That didn’t go unnoticed. A panel of Magic representatives, in awe of his devotion to philanthropy, kept tabs of all his off-the-court contributions and voted him as the 2021-22 Rich & Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award (CEA) winner. The other finalists this year were Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr. and Jonathan Isaac, a co-winner the last time this prize was handed out in 2019. Due to the pandemic, the CEA was not awarded in the 2019-20 or 2020-21 seasons.
Like a combo meal, the honor comes with a side. Fultz was granted $25,000 from the DeVos Family Foundations to donate to a charity of his choice.
“Just coming over to Orlando and just seeing how much they do in the community and just how much effort they put in to reach as many as people as they can, it fit into the characteristics of my household and what we stand on,” he said. “It was pretty easy to come in and try to see where I can help out at, and for them to give the resources to so many different people to reach out to. It’s truly an honor and a blessing to be able to do this and be recognized for it.”
Several of Fultz’s community efforts this season came during the holidays. Around Thanksgiving, he joined his mother Ebony and other volunteers in supplying 300 turkeys, pantry items and produce to seniors and families in Orlando’s Eatonville neighborhood. That same week, he sponsored his annual “Fultzgiving” event in the District of Columbia, where families from the Emery Heights community were provided Thanksgiving meals. A few days before Christmas, he delivered holiday gifts to 67 children from the Head Start program at Orlando’s Hal Marston Community Center.
Where did this philanthropic mentality originate from, you might be wondering? His whole family, and especially his mother, instilled it in him at an early age.
“I think this award is not only for my mom but my whole family,” he said. “This is something that we’ve doing our whole lives, so for me to be able to get recognized for it, I give a huge thanks to her and I let her know today, ‘thank you for making me the man that I am, to be able to see the people in need, the people who might not feel comfortable, and being able to reach out to them and lift them up.’ This is a huge shoutout to not only my mom, but my family and my kids. Hopefully they see this and continue to build on this legacy.”
With what so many families have endured throughout the pandemic, Fultz felt in his heart that it was more important than ever to lend a helping hand. He’s proud to be part of a community that stuck together amid such tough circumstances.
“It helped me realize to not take anything for granted,” he said. “Being able to understand that there are people who have less, there are people who have more. We are all human. First, I just want to thank God for the ability to be able to reach out to these people and be able to help them. This is something I don’t do for publicity or anything like that. This is something I do out of the kindness of my heart….It really touched me (and) gave me more motivation, and even do more, and keep building on this.”
Past winners of the CEA award include Nick Anderson, Penny Hardaway, Darrell Armstrong, Grant Hill, Monty Williams, Tracy McGrady, Pat Garrity, Bo Outlaw, Dwight Howard, J.J. Redick, Jameer Nelson, Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton, Arron Afflalo, Aaron Gordon, and Isaac.
To celebrate all that Fultz and his teammates have accomplished in the community, the entire Magic team was on hand at Saturday’s Orlando Wine Festival and Auction benefitting the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation (OMYF) at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.
The Magic’s signature fundraiser included live and electronic auctions that are active until March 21, as well as an outdoor festival, featuring live music, local and celebrity chefs, wineries, and food pavilions.
Each guest will also receive an invitation to the OMYF grant ceremony, where all funds from this event will be distributed to local nonprofit organizations that help at-risk youth in Central Florida. This is the second time the Magic have hosted this event, which replaced the Black Tie and Tennies Gala in 2019 after its successful 28-year run. In 2020, this fundraiser had to be cancelled just a couple days before it was scheduled to take place after the NBA paused the season due to the pandemic.
“After the break that we unfortunately had that obviously impacted so many people in a negative way, it’s great to get back together and look at the future,” Magic Chairman Dan DeVos said. “This is a major event for us. There are so many needs out there. This is our big fundraiser of the year…This creates really the foundation that we build everything else on, and it creates a lot of new friends for the organization, for the youth foundation. And therefore, they can help us with other events that we have throughout the year.”
In a region of the country that is growing larger by the day, it’s critical for philanthropists across Central Florida to support organizations that are helping kids succeed in all aspects of their lives.
“We are becoming a bigger city. We are becoming a lot more philanthropic because of that,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “It’s great for our at-risk children’s organizations because there is a lot of need in Central Florida…Now, you are starting to see philanthropy grow in Central Florida, which is great and I think it only bodes well for helping the kids in Central Florida and helping the organizations that really are making these kids better and preparing them for a better life.”
Each year, the Magic gives more than $2 million to Central Florida by way of sponsorships of events, donated tickets, autographed merchandise, and grants. At the heart of the Magic’s charitable efforts is the work done by the OMYF, which is committed to helping children in Central Florida realize their full potential, especially those most at-risk, by supporting nonprofit organizations offering youth-based programs in the areas of education, housing/homelessness, the arts and health programs focused on preventing childhood obesity.
Over the last 31 years, more than $26 million has been distributed to local nonprofit community organizations through the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation. The DeVos family’s investment in the OMYF covers all administrative costs which allows for 100 percent of all donations to go directly to the foundation to benefit children and families in need throughout Central Florida each year. The OMYF raises community dollars annually through donations, auctions and events such as the OMYF Open Golf Tournament and its signature fundraiser, the Orlando Wine Festival and Auction.
In March and June 2021, the OMYF presented checks totaling $1 million to 18 grantee organizations, with $300k in collaborative grants distributed in March and $700k in grants distributed in June, marking the 13th time the OMYF has distributed $1 million to the Central Florida community since OMYF's inception in 1990.
The OMYF's ability to reach such a milestone in 2021 was once in doubt. Due to the pandemic, OMYF was unable to hold fundraising events over the past year that traditionally helped to add to the total available for giving. To make up for that shortfall, Magic ownership – the DeVos family – provided $700,000 for 2021 grant-making activity.
Central Florida’s biggest cheerleaders, the late Rich and Helen DeVos cherished every opportunity they had to give back to the community.
“My parents were always ones who gave back from a very early time in their marriage. They always gave back in one way or another through the church, through the community,” son Dan DeVos said. “They did that all the way through their whole lives. They instilled it with us and taught us that it’s an obligation that we have to give back. To have this award with their names on it helps perpetuate their memory and their commitment to the community.”