ORLANDO - Coping with pandemic stress is an undeniable challenge, especially now with COVID cases rising across the country. Maintaining a positive attitude helps decrease that anxiety and fear.
Have doubts about that? Donya Holley’s personal journey will likely convince you that anything is possible, even when things seem grim.
At the beginning of 2021, the single mother of three children was facing a lot of uncertainty. The family was living in an unstable apartment. It was very cramped. Holley knew changes were necessary, especially for the kids who needed more space.
She was denied after applying for Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County’s homeownership program. Not once, but twice. She repeatedly told herself not to give up, and that perseverance was necessary. Slowly but surely, that positive outlook combined with her hard work paid off. She eventually got the green light from Habitat for Humanity to take the next step in the process, which was completing 75 hours of sweat equity or volunteer hours and attending eight homeownership classes.
She started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and then came the revelation she prayed for. A new house in Orlando’s Silver Pines Pointe community would be built for the family. The Orlando Magic took part in the construction, and then joined the family for a key dedication ceremony along with AdventHealth and Habitat for Humanity in early November.
“I did not give up. (There were a) little bit of bumps where I feel like I could have gotten discouraged,” Holley said. “God kept pushing me. And I remember why I started. I started for them (her children). I knew I had to do something to change my kids’ lives because if I didn’t do it I didn’t know who was going to do it. So, I thank God for perseverance because there are many times I could have given up. I’m living proof that it can happen, so don’t give up on anything that you are doing in your life.”
Christmas two days away, the Magic decided Holley and her family deserved more for their incredible resilience and grit. They welcomed them to Amway Center for Thursday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans. But this wasn’t just any ordinary game night experience.
A limo picked them up at their home. Upon arriving, they enjoyed dinner in the Fields Ultimate Lounge. During the game, they cheered on the Magic from their Ultimate seats. The biggest surprise, though, occurred during halftime when it was announced that they were this year’s “Big Give” family recipient.
Joined by AdventHealth, Disney, Drop and Papa John’s at center court, the family was showered with gifts and other items to assist them through difficult times. It was the 13th consecutive season the Magic have hosted one family around the holidays for “The Big Give.”
Gifts included electronics and kitchen appliances for their new home, including a flat screen smart TV, all-in-one air fryer, and toaster oven. The Magic's partners also surprised the family with $5,000 for home furnishings provided by AdventHealth; a total of $500 in gift cards and free groceries for a year from Sam's Club provided by Drop; four Disney Park Hopper Passes courtesy of Disney; and Papa John’s gave the family a year supply of pizza.
“I am so overwhelmed. I really just thought that I was just going to come to the game, and just enjoy the game because I knew they (Orlando Magic) did sponsor me, so I was not expecting what I just received. It’s a blessing,” Holley said.
The Magic have been quite busy over the last week giving back to their community. On Dec. 15, the Magic provided Carver Middle School students who are part of the After School All Stars program gifts off their holiday wish lists. The very next day, Chuma Okeke, along with Pepsi Stronger Together, surprised 100 Boys & Girls Club members at the Joe R. Lee Branch with $100 gift cards and new electronic equipment for their teen lounge. Across town, E’Twaun Moore was at a Target hosting close to 70 children from the J.R. Smith Center for a holiday shopping spree. Each kid was given a $100 gift card, paid for by Moore and Magic teammate Cole Anthony.
On Dec. 22, Markelle Fultz, his mother Ebony and Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley bought holiday presents for 67 Head Start program children ages 3-5 as well as $100 Publix gift cards for each of the parents. Attending on behalf of Mosley, who was in Atlanta coaching against the Hawks, was his wife, Kristina.
“It means the world,” Mosley said. “We talk about what it’s all about and it’s about being able to give back and take care of those in need, especially in times such as this. It means a ton. We have such a great organization that is giving back and wanting to give back. And Kelle does a great job. All of our guys do a great job of getting involved and being in the community.”