ORLANDO - Increasing voter turnout and encouraging more community involvement has been a major focal point for the Orlando Magic during these tough, uncertain times.
One person in the organization who has been extremely active in this mission is Head Coach Steve Clifford, who this past season guided the Magic to the playoffs for the second straight year.
Over the last few months, the 59-year-old, who is in his second stint with the Magic after serving as an assistant coach under Stan Van Gundy from 2007-12, has worked with several community leaders and pioneers to motivate his Central Florida neighbors and help them realize the power they have to make positive changes.
Clifford’s most recent endeavor came on Saturday, Oct. 10 when he, members of his coaching staff and representatives from various local organizations, including Let Your Voice Be Heard, Inc., City of Orlando Parks and Recreation, Parramore Kidz Zone and My Brother’s Keeper, handed out backpacks filled with supplies and voter education information to the attendees outside Exploria Stadium.
“There are so many people who are putting so much into making Orlando a better place,” Clifford said. “What I found is there are so many people running so many organizations and all they want to do revolves around trying to make Orlando a better place. They live to help other people have better lives and we want to be involved in that.”
Tents were set up at the socially-distanced event for guests to learn more about what they can do to be more active in their community. The Magic also distributed an autographed basketball as a raffle item.
Having the Magic, who are passionate about community service, present is a big boost for organizations hoping to extend their reach. Let Your Voice Be Heard, for instance, which was created with the vision of uniting the minority communities, local businesses, and organizations around the world, is thrilled to have the support of the Magic.
“It’s been amazing,” said Miles Mulrain, community organizer for Let Your Voice Be Heard. “Coach Clifford has reached out. They’ve done their research, their homework. They have wanted to help. They want to actually meet people like me on the ground who don’t have those resources or don’t have that different network that they may have and (are) able to bring those resources to us and try to help us out. And I’m not just the only group that has been reached out to by the Magic or coach Clifford. So, it’s good to know that they actually care and they’re not just talking. They’re following up.”
Considering many of Saturday’s attendees were children, this event helped them understand that it’s never too early to get involved in the community. Students Caiden Alyea and Anderson Henson, who both participated in the event by handing out some of the goodies, are very aware of that.
“To be involved, it’s cool so you can help out people,” 12-year-old Alyea said. “We all have to stick together. (It) can’t be one man for himself.”
“It really helps a lot because it’s like a real good support (for the community),” 11-year-old Henson added.
On National Voter Registration Day last month, Clifford and Magic center Mo Bamba were at Amway Center to cheer on people as they registered to vote or checked their voter registration status. It brings Clifford tremendous joy and satisfaction to hear from others who are as devoted to community growth as he is.
A couple weeks before that, Clifford celebrated “Desmond Meade Day” by touring around Orlando to help motivate, galvanize and empower others. Throughout that day, he, Meade, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) executive director whom Time magazine named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2019, and other community spearheads made stops at the Salvation Army of Orlando and the New Image Youth Center.
Hearing from Meade, who led the FRRC to a historic victory in 2018 with the successful passage of Amendment 4, a grassroots citizen’s initiative which restored voting rights to over 1.4 million Floridians with past felony convictions, has inspired Clifford and his team’s players, who learned more about Meade’s story while they were at Disney for the season restart. This past August, Meade voted in Florida’s primary election. It was the first time he voted in 30 years.
“Talk about somebody that has dedicated his life to the betterment of others. There is no better example of that than Desmond,” Clifford said. “For me, for my staff, for our organization, he’s a great, great partner for us.”