Orlando Magic Recognize Local Elementary School for Winning MAGIC Fit Four-Week Fitness Challenge with Special Ceremony

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - While certainly a challenge, especially in places where gyms were closed or still are and with social distancing guidelines preventing many from participating in team sports, modifying our exercise habits has been incredibly important throughout this pandemic.

Another key has been maintaining a healthy diet, particularly when staying indoors for extensive amounts of time.

But, through perseverance, adaptation and a big-picture outlook, many discovered ways, albeit some unique and unconventional, of overcoming those obstacles. That has been the case for many kids throughout Central Florida.

One school in particular in the community that went above and beyond to make sure their students stayed fit and committed to their health and wellness was Hunter’s Creek Elementary School. They were one of 21 nearby schools that participated in the MAGIC Fit four-week fitness challenge and one of 11 that completed the challenge with 100 percent participation.

On Thursday, March 25, Orlando Magic Community Ambassadors Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw along with representatives from Florida Technical College (FTC), which like the Magic are committed to programs and services focused on health and wellness, visited the school and celebrated their achievement with a physically-distanced ceremony on the outdoor basketball court.

“This is a great thing. Just giving the kids a sense of responsibility and this also lets them know that you can have fun and be rewarded for working out,” Outlaw said. “I think that’s a big thing. This way they work out and they really don’t think they are working out, getting in shape (and) getting fit (because they are having fun), and if we can reward them, that’s a great thing.”

The MAGIC Fit four-week fitness challenge is an incentive-based exercise program for children created by the Magic's strength and conditioning staff in 2014. Schools in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties are invited to participate in the program. Due to the pandemic, the grand prize celebration had to be altered. In past years the winning school would receive a MAGIC Fit Fun Day filled with different competitions and drills hosted by the Magic in the school's gym. Schools that accomplish 100 percent student participation in the four-week challenge are entered to win the MAGIC Fit Fun Day as a reward to the students and faculty for their commitment to the program.

MAGIC Fit was the team’s first-ever fitness and nutrition education program for youth. Following the NBA FIT guidelines, the program’s goal is to improve the knowledge of healthy food choices and fitness exercises among at-risk children in the region. NBA FIT, which encourages physical activity and healthy living for children and families, is a comprehensive health and wellness platform promoting healthy, active lifestyles for children and adults.

Recognized at Thursday’s event were 10 of the students who each went the extra mile, along with some of the school’s staff, including Principal Fresia Urdaneta and P.E. teacher Hayden Clapper. Anderson and Outlaw gave the kids some basketball tips and surprised them each with a Magic jersey. Every student in the school received a Magic basketball with Magic player Cole Anthony delivering a taped message of congratulations to them in the morning. In addition, FTC provided each student a drawstring bag for their basketballs to easily be transported home.

“It’s a phenomenal event. I know the Orlando Magic supports this yearly. It was just amazing that our students were selected this year, promoting fitness,” Urdaneta said. “It’s something we continuously push throughout the year and it was phenomenal because this year the teachers combined it with music and did all of the exercises with music, and the children really love it and they’re used to the routines already.”

Research has shown that the more active a child is in sports and exercise in general, the more likely they are to excel academically in the classroom. That has certainly been noticed by Urdaneta and teachers at Hunter’s Creek, which is another reason why they felt participating in the Magic’s fitness challenge was so important for them to do.

“Students who are participating in extra-curricular activities, there is a direct correlation with how they are performing (in the classroom),” Urdaneta said. “They typically are overachievers. They have great (grades). They develop those strategies with their sports and that transitions into the classroom as well or vice versa.”

What helps the Magic get the message out there is having strong, likeminded partners in their corner. Just as committed as the Magic are in helping children reach their full potential is FTC, as the two also joined together last summer to assist food insecure families in Central Florida by partnering with Magic player Jonathan Isaac and Project Life. The Magic, Isaac and FTC's hunger-relief efforts through Project Life included providing resources along with hot meals to areas of the Orlando community most profoundly affected by the coronavirus. FTC students prepared the meals that were donated to Project Life. The students and FTC staff also assisted in the distribution of those meals to the community.

“I think it’s really important. We have a larger initiative called FTC Cares and by being able to partner with large organizations like the Orlando Magic, we can really amplify our message and our reach and help more people,” FTC President Dr. James Michael Burkett said. “The more we work together in Central Florida, the more people we can help and the stronger our community will be.”

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