Photo by Fernando Medina
Via John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com:
Orlando’s Patsy Jacob stood back a few feet behind 10-year-old Oskaria Houser and shook her head in delight as her daughter rode up on a shiny, new scooter before tearing into a box of new toys. Christmas was still more than a week away, but Jacob knew that this was going to be a good holiday season because of the good fortune being lavished on her family by the Orlando Magic.
“It’s truly a blessing what they have done for us. The Magic are spectacular the way they are helping these kids,” Jacob said as she watched kids riding new bicycles and scooters around the Magic’s practice court. “It’s a godsend them giving their time and money for something like this. These kids look up to these players. A lot of us already live in a bad community, but with the help of the Magic doing things like this, the kids won’t go astray. The staff at the New Image Center is excellent and with the Orlando Magic helping them they are just the best for these kids.”
The Magic’s players, coaches and staff held a holiday party on Friday for 55 families from the New Image Youth Center in Parramore. The families were first treated to a party outside of the Amway Center with Dwight Howard making a mock music video with kids, Rashard Lewis playing video football games with teenagers, Jameer Nelson doing face-painting and J.J. Redick running the snow cone machine.
The families were then taken inside to the Magic’s practice court where each of the children had a box full of toys, books and clothes waiting for them. And the grand finale was the Magic players riding out new bicycles and scooters for each child.
And what truly made the event special was that all of the funding for the party and gifts came from the Magic players, coaches and basketball operations staff. Each player donated $1,500 and nearly $30,000 was raised to put on the party and buy gifts for the children. The idea, formulated three years ago by President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith, was rather than having a team-wide Christmas party to instead have a celebration for the those families more in need.
“We started doing this three years ago, having a community Christmas party and donating the money from our party for charity for the community party,” Smith said. “Everyone participates on some level and we all get such a big kick out of seeing the kid’s faces when they open the presents.”
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who spent time on Friday riding the train with kids, eating snow cones and engaging in a playful snow ball fight, said the idea for the community party was one of Smith’s best. Van Gundy said buying stuff for those in need was much more fulfilling than a party for the players and coaches. “I think this is fabulous. Otis has had a number of good ideas in a lot of ways, but this (party) is a fantastic one,” Van Gundy said. “I’ve been places where you get together as a team and have a Christmas party – like we need to spend more time together and we would be buying gifts for each other. It would be people who have everything buying gifts for people who have everything. I think the money is much better spent this way. We’re giving money to people who need it and really appreciate it and we’re making their holidays a lot brighter. We enjoy it more than they do, and I know that I do.”
Redick, who had a career-best 29-point effort last week in Denver, said seeing the looks on kids faces when they receive their new bicycles gives him a warm feeling inside. Redick said he is well aware of the impact that NBA players can have on the lives of others and he’s proud that the Magic are doing something during the holidays to give back to the community.
“This party is such a great idea,” Redick said. “Hopefully it’s just a small blessing for these people this time of year.”
Redick said its moments like Friday that causes him to stop and think how fortunate he is to be playing a game that he loves and be in a position to make a difference in the lives of others.
“I would say I remind myself at least three or four times a day how lucky I am,” Redick said. “I consider myself to be one of the luckiest people on Earth to have the job that I do and that I really enjoy my job. I appreciate being a part of this community and I know that I am a very lucky person.”