Orlando Magic Youth Foundation Spotlight: The Gift of Swimming

By Josh Cohen
July 16, 2014

ORLANDO – Learning to swim at an early age combats two major problems in the United States. It helps prevent cases of drowning, in which Florida leads the nation in the drowning of children under age five, and it reduces obesity, serving as a successful fitness activity.

The Gift of Swimming, a nonprofit organization that provides access to drowning prevention resources and education for the community’s underprivileged, is helping limit these tragic problems among children. And now, with the help from the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, a McCormick Foundation Fund (OMYF-MFF), more and more kids are capable of protecting their own lives in the pool and finding a fun and effective way to live healthier.

Earlier this year, The Gift of Swimming was one of 25 nonprofit organizations to receive financial assistance from the Orlando Magic Youth Fund (OMYF-MFF), a McCormick Foundation Fund since 1994, in an effort to build its programs. The Gift of Swimming received $10,000, which will reduce drowning cases in Central Florida and decrease the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and other health issues.

“The Orlando Magic has helped to save lives,” said Executive Director of The Gift of Swimming Susan Polder. “This is helping break the cycle of children that don’t know how to swim and it’s allowing kids to be more physically fit and confident with themselves.”

The grant money received from the OMYF-MFF is instrumental in the development of The Gift of Swimming’s Orange County Head Start program, which teaches three and four year olds from low-income families how to swim-float-swim. It also offers children very insightful nutritional information, including how to make healthy food choices.

This is the sixth year The Gift of Swimming has received aid from the OMYF-MFF and they are forever grateful. Polder says she has seen how much of a difference this funding has had in combating potential drowning cases and giving children a fantastic way to stay physically fit.

“The Magic (OMYF-MFF) has been very generous,” she said. “They are playing a big part in helping the community and those who wouldn’t be able to afford something this important.”

Around 200 children were in the program this past school year and the hope is that the number will continue to grow.

A grand sum of $600,000 by OMYF-MFF was awarded to the 25 organizations in January. A total of $3.8 million has been awarded by the OMYF-MFF over the past four years and more than $18.8 million in the past 24 years. Magic community relations programs impact an estimated 75,000 kids each year, while a Magic staff-wide initiative provides more than 7,000 volunteer hours annually.

“We really do get to impact youth by helping all of the great work that all of these organizations are doing,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “There are hundreds of youth organizations throughout Central Florida who are doing great work to help at-risk youth and set them on a path for a better life. This is just a small way for us to try and help them do their work. They do all of the work, and for us to be able to distribute all of these funds and expand the number of youth that they serve or add another program, it’s incredibly meaningful to us.”

The 2014 grant recipients are: Adult Literacy League, Apopka Family Learning Center, BETA Center, Boys Town Central Florida, Children’s Home Society of Florida, City Year, Early Learning Coalition of Orange County, Elevate Orlando, Florida Hospital for Children, Foundation for Foster Children, Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools, Gift of Swimming, Harbor House of Central Florida, Hebni Nutrition Consultants, Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families, Orange County Library System, Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, Orlando Repertory Theatre, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Osceola Council on Aging, Rescue Outreach Mission of Central Florida, The Center for Drug Free Living-Zebra Coalition, The Salvation Army, University of Central Florida Foundation, Valencia College Foundation

To learn more about the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, visit here