Orlando Magic Recognized for Making a Positive Impact on Local Youth

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - Hosted by WFTV Channel 9 News Anchor Jamie Holmes on YouTube, the 2021 Crystal Awards recognized the individuals, organizations and businesses in the Central Florida community that have gone above and beyond to help students of Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) realize their full potential.

Among those honored were the Orlando Magic and the team’s charitable arm, the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation (OMYF), which has distributed more than $26 million to local nonprofit community organizations over the last 31 years to lift up youth and provide them with the resources they need for a better and more promising future.

“From their ownership to their leadership on down to their players, they are 100 percent invested in the children in this community and they are invested in public education because they know that is the pathway to success,” said Scott Howat, the chief communications officer for OCPS and the president of the Foundation for OCPS. “They have such an intense focus on wanting to make an impact in this community on the youth and young people and our job is to educate our young people. So, putting OCPS and the Orlando Magic together makes magic for our young children.”

Just in the last year alone, the Magic have made an enormous impact on OCPS students through a variety of programs and events, two of which being the MAGIC Four-Week Fit Challenge and the Magic of Mentoring program.

A month ago, the Magic teamed up with Florida Technical College to visit the grand prize winning school of this year’s fitness challenge, Hunter’s Creek Elementary School. They were one of 21 schools that participated in the program and one of 11 that completed the challenge with 100 percent participation.

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.

“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,” said Magic Community Ambassador Bo Outlaw during the celebration at Hunter’s Creek. “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 of Mentoring initiative is designed to reduce the achievement gap among Central Florida minority males by providing educational experiences, exposure to careers in sports, and mentorship. Since program inception, over 750 minority male youth have participated in the Magic's Minority Male Youth Summit learning from prominent minority male leaders from the area.

This past year, students from Edgewater High School and Jones High School participated in a season-long virtual program in which they were mentored by a minority male Magic staff member.

Other team efforts to support OCPS over the last year include donating leftover supplies from the NBA bubble at Disney such as jerseys, athletic equipment, and Gatorade products to students; distributing 2,700 Magic basketballs to 15 schools; organizing a STUFF Buckle UP Dance Challenge at five schools with help from Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles; and promoting reading as part of the Magic's Pick, Read & Roll program by sending in some informative and entertaining videos featuring STUFF the Magic Mascot, Nick Anderson and Outlaw to the schools.

“I can tell you that when you work for the Orlando Magic and you are part of not only the leadership scene but the team itself, there is a pride, an honor to be part of this team and one of the things we feel is that we are all in this together,” Magic Vice President of Community and Government Affairs Linda Landman Gonzalez said.

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