Orlando Magic's Champions of the Community Partners Team Up to Fight Hunger with Volunteer Project at Second Harvest Food Bank

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO – Central Florida cities are among the fastest growing in the United States largely because of the work the region’s biggest, most successful companies are doing – both independently and collectively.

Just like it is in basketball or any other team-oriented sport, good teamwork significantly helps – not only from a business perspective but also on a philanthropic level.

That benevolence was on display at Second Harvest Food Bank on Friday morning when the Orlando Magic and their six Champions of the Community (COTC) – Walt Disney World, L3Harris, PepsiCo, Insurance Office of America (IOA), RP Funding and AdventHealth – joined forces to combat hunger in the area.

As part of the Magic Volunteer Program (MVP), staff members from each organization sorted through and packed food that will be distributed to those in need in Central Florida. Last year, with the help of numerous donors, volunteers and a caring, committed community, the food bank delivered nearly 63 million meals to partner programs such as food pantries, soup kitchens, women’s shelters, senior centers, day care centers and kids cafes.

Although special when they assist children and families on their own, it’s even more gratifying for the Magic when they get to do it alongside their most trusted partners.

“The spirit of the event generated from the spirit of these partnerships,” said J.T. McWalters, Magic Vice President of Corporate Partnership Activation & Strategy. “This is something where they inspired us to pull together. They wanted us all to work together, bring these great brands to one event and make a difference. No better way to do it than with Second Harvest. It’s a great day to really feel like you’re making a difference.”

An invite to Friday’s event was confirmation of what Faron Kelley, Vice President of Disney Sports, essentially already knew – and that is that other organizations like his have a passion for helping people in the community reach their full potential.

“When the Magic first reached out and told us they were going to get all their champions of the community together, I told my team immediately we want to be part of that,” Kelley said. “This combines so many things that mean a lot to me personally and Disney as a company, where we can give back to the community but also work side by side with our very valued partners like the Orlando Magic.”

Working together on community projects builds camaraderie as well and gives the organizations a chance to learn about the goals and core values they each have. At this event, in particular, it didn’t take long for them to all realize they share virtually the same objectives and principles.

The more people and the more companies that are involved in lifting others’ spirits, the more the community can grow and flourish. When Brian McDowell, President of Personal Lines & Small Business at IOA, first found out about the event and relayed the news to his staff, many quickly raised their hands and said they wanted to participate.

“This is a very important event,” he said. “IOA, from our roots, is very much about outreach and giving back. This event is really special because we get to partner with some of the biggest companies here to make a real big difference for the community.”

Community work is a large part of the Magic’s culture and in the Magic’s mission statement to be world champions on and off the court. As part of the team’s community commitment, the MVP was developed in 2006 to encourage Magic employees to get out and get involved in the community. The program started with the goal of performing 2,000 hours of community service during the 2006-‘07 season; 3,800 hours were tracked that first year. Since program inception, more than 80,000 hours in the Central Florida community have been tracked.

The MVP is unique in that it allows Magic employees to volunteer during work hours. As an added incentive, employees who reach a certain level of volunteer hours will be rewarded and receive a monetary donation to the charity of their choice. Magic staff distributed $6,100 to local charities of their choice over the past season alone. There is also an annual award given to the Magic staff member who contributes the most hours in the community.

In addition, on an annual basis off the court, the Magic give more than $2 million to the local community by way of sponsorships of events, donated tickets, autographed merchandise and grants. Magic community relations programs impact an estimated 100,000 kids each year, and the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation (OMYF), which serves at-risk youth, has distributed more than $25 million to local nonprofit community organizations over the last 30 years.

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 the upcoming 2020 Orlando Wine Festival and Auction.

The second annual Orlando Wine Festival and Auction, the signature fundraiser for the OMYF, will be held March 13-15, 2020 at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. The weekend of events is set to feature exclusive vintner dinners, an outdoor festival featuring live music, live auction displays, an e-auction, local and celebrity chefs, wineries, and food pavilions, along with Magic players and coaches. Each guest also receives an invitation to the OMYF grant ceremony, where all funds from the Orlando Wine Festival and Auction will be distributed to local nonprofit organizations. Last year's Orlando Wine Festival & Auction raised $900,000 for the OMYF to distribute to nonprofits in the Central Florida community.

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