ORLANDO – It’s partnerships like the one between the Orlando Magic and FAIRWINDS Credit Union that help strengthen communities.
When bighearted organizations band together to assist people who reside in the areas where they do business, good things ensue.
That was conspicuous on Saturday, Dec. 19 when the Magic and FAIRWINDS teamed up with the City of Orlando to give District 6 residents a much-needed boost this holiday season. At the Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center, preselected families received holiday gift bags that included toys and clothes. Additional raffle prizes, such as children’s bikes and flat screen televisions, were also given out.
Among those who packaged and/or distributed the gifts were Magic Community Ambassadors Bo Outlaw and Nick Anderson and many volunteers from FAIRWINDS.
“Everybody who takes a part in this to make a family smile, we are so fortunate to be able to do this,” Anderson said. “You think about the families that are struggling, especially in these times, for them to be handed something for Christmas, it surely is a blessing for all of us. All of us who are participating, all of those who are receiving those gifts today, it truly is a blessing.”
It’s seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces that’s always the most gratifying part for Outlaw, who played for the Magic in two different stints, first from 1997-2001 and then again from 2005-2008.
“That’s what it’s about, the kids,” he said. “As adults, we are going to make it. But the kids, they have no idea what’s really going on. So we just trying to be the blanket and cover it up from them and just let them know we are (here) for them and this is the best way we can do it.”
With the pandemic causing so much devastation, the Magic and FAIRWINDS are devoted to doing all that they can to reverse people’s misfortunes. The holiday season should always be a time of joy, family, laughter and togetherness, and that’s precisely what the Magic and FAIRWINDS want people to experience.
“It’s an extraordinary partnership that we have with the Orlando Magic, especially during these challenging times,” said Elisha Gonzalez, Vice President of Community Relations and Government Affairs at FAIRWINDS and the Executive Director of the FAIRWINDS Foundation. “Just people trying to make decisions between rent, food and providing toys for their children, so it’s a blessing that we are able to come together to provide a little bit of joy this holiday season for their children.”
“We’ve recently gone national ourselves at FAIRWINDS, so (partnering with the Magic) allows an opportunity to really organically work together to make a difference collaboratively,” she added.
Grateful for the Magic and FAIRWINDS, Orlando District 6 Commissioner Bakari Burns and his staff believe it’s compassion like this that steers people down healthier and happier paths. Jason Henry, Burns’ Executive Aide, is elated to know there are organizations in the community who truly care and are willing to lend a helping hand.
“It’s been a difficult year for a lot of people and Christmas is that time of year that you want to spread as much joy and good tidings to as many folks as you can and the Commissioner set this up to make sure that kids in the district who are struggling or their parents may have struggled this year, that we are able to provide some type of Christmas joy for them,” Henry said. “You got Bo Outlaw and Nick Anderson out here. I understand that from my generation, very familiar with those two and I understand that younger kids may not be. But they see these big, tall dudes that are coming out here in Magic gear and I think that puts an extra smile on their face to know that this is actually somebody and something they can touch, so it’s tangible. It’s not something they just see on television. It’s something that’s actually coming directly to their community to make an impact and make a difference.”
Saturday’s community event was one of several the Magic are involved in this holiday season.
This past Tuesday, Magic staff members provided local underserved children gifts off of their holiday wish lists. This year, the star tree gifts benefitted homeless youth from Orange County Public Schools. Each child’s wish list was distributed virtually and selected by Magic staff to help fulfill their wishes.
The very next evening, members from the Magic and Pepsi went to the Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida’s Taft location and surprised 40 kids with a $10,000 donation, which included $100 Walmart gift cards for each child, as well as electronics for their new teen lounge, including a flat screen television, laptop computers and Bluetooth speakers.
“This is special. Me, Bo, STUFF and some other members of the team, we went and did a little bit of shopping ourselves to bring the gifts to them,” said Anderson, one of several Magic volunteers at the event. “We normally have the kids at the Walmart. I know they would have enjoyed that and look forward to that. But, we got it done. I’m pretty sure the kids are very excited about what they are going to receive, that $100 gift card for Walmart to go in and not only get them some things, also things for their loved ones, their friends and others.”
On Tuesday, Dec. 22, the Magic will partner with the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida to shower one local family of six with a BIG holiday surprise including gifts and other items the family needs. This is the 12th consecutive season of the Magic’s Big Give, which selects one deserving family each year. This year, a single mother of five children has been selected.