Tampa Bay Sports Day

NBA: Magic Give Thanks This Holiday Joining the Coalition for the Homeless

Photo by Gary Bassing, Orlando Magic

By Dan Savage, OrlandoMagic.com

The Orlando Magic may be on the road for the Thanksgiving holiday, but their presence is still being heavily felt in the Central Florida community.

Magic Community Ambassadors Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw, team staff, the Magic Dancers and volunteers continued the organization’s heartfelt holiday tradition of serving Thanksgiving breakfast to more than 700 homeless men, women and children at Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida on Thursday.

“This has become part of our organizational Thanksgiving,” Magic CEO Alex Martins explained. “To be able to go to the Coalition for the Homeless every Thanksgiving morning and be able to serve breakfast to those who are homeless and don’t have the opportunity to have a good Thanksgiving meal at their own home, it means a lot to us.”

For the past 25 years, the Magic have served less fortunate families on the morning of Thanksgiving, filling plates with eggs, sausage, home fries, and other breakfast delights.

“We’re so blessed with the DeVos family and they Magic organization to be able to come here and do something small on Thanksgiving,” Magic COO Charlie Freeman said. “It’s a big need in our community and we’re just blessed to be able to be here – 25 years is amazing and they do a great job here.”

Amidst a four-game road trip, players and members of Orlando’s coaching staff were unable to attend as they spent the morning traveling from Minnesota to Boston. However, they were still able to make a huge impact on the festivities with Head Coach Frank Vogel sponsoring the breakfast.

“It’s important that during the holidays for me to be able to give back and try to help them out and give them something to smile about, something to look forward to,” Vogel explained. “It’s just something that I definitely feel good about.”

Vogel continued the time-honored tradition of the team’s head coaches providing funding for the event, one that Magic co-founder and Senior Vice President Pat Williams has seen grow over the years.

“I remember the first one, vividly, and have been at every one since,” Williams said. “The event keeps getting better. It’s wonderful to see our staff so engaged with probably 100 of our staff doing the serving and helping with the cooking, it’s a beautiful thing to watch.”

In addition to the meal, the team also hosted a carnival for the children. It featured a dance party with the Magic Dancers, pop-a-shot with the Blue Crew as well as face painting, caricatures, games, and balloon art.

“I’m very thankful for all the volunteers and the people coming out today and making the kids and everybody feel special,” said Jequia Mitchell, who resides at the Coalition for the Homeless with her husband and three children. “It means a lot, not just for me, but for the kids.”

Mitchell and her daughters, especially enjoyed dancing to songs like the ‘Cupid Shuffle’ with the Magic Dancers.

“It’s fun and it gives my kids something to do on Thanksgiving,” she explained. “We don’t have a house to cook at, we don’t have a family to celebrate with, so it’s fun for them and to see them enjoying it.”

Adults and children were also treated to haircuts by Paul Mitchell The School as the Coalition for the Homeless continues to look for ways to help the homeless community even beyond the holidays.

“I see them smiling, kids having a good time, it’s just a special day,” said Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida President John E. Hearn.” “It’s commitments like these from the Magic that really are the reason we’re able to be here as an organization.”

The breakfast was just one of several initiatives the Magic engaged in to help those in need on Thanksgiving. Last Friday, Terrence Ross and Shelvin Mack joined season ticket holders to cook a meal for the Ronald McDonald House, while Arron Afflalo and Amway teamed to distribute 450 turkey dinners to families on Sunday.

“It takes me back to when Mr. DeVos first purchased the Magic,” Community Ambassador Nick Anderson reminisced. “He said ‘we are a community team and the team belongs to the community. We will be in the community to help and provide for the Central Florida community,’ and that’s what we’ve been doing from day one.”

And that’s what the Magic will continue to do, this holiday season and beyond.