The Orlando Magic have gotten into the spirit of giving this holiday season, hosting several holiday-themed events in order to give back to the community. Two days ago, they hosted 42 families from the Apopka Family learning center for a party at RDV SportsPlex in an event which included coach Stan Van Gundy dressed as Santa Claus. From John Denton's story on the festivities:
Even the most hardened competitors on the basketball court might have grown a bit misty-eyed on Tuesday watching the joyous smiles of kids getting presents and bicycles on what might have otherwise been a lean holiday season.
"We live a good lifestyle and God has blessed us with most of the things that we have ever desired materialistically. But to be able to give back to those who are a little less fortunate, it's such a really good feeling for us," said Magic guard Anthony Johnson, one of the fourth-quarter heroes of Monday's win against the Utah Jazz. "We're just out here trying to spread some cheer and brighten the holidays."
Magic general manager Otis Smith said nothing was budgeted for the party, so he started going around to all of the players two weeks ago for donations to fund the party. The generosity from the players and staff amazed Smith, so much so that the party even exceeded the team's expectations, Smith said.
"I think there's something a little off about a party where millionaires are buying gifts for other millionaires, especially when there are so many people in need," said J.J. Redick, who had a bicycle under each arm during the end of the party. "I don't think you can underestimate the impact of an act of kindness and the impact that it can have on a person. Doing stuff like this is something that we enjoy, but it's also a necessity."
Tuesday's party was only the most recent example of the Magic's holiday giving. Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass, and Vince Carter visited Florida Hospital for Children last Friday, to distribute gifts as well as to just hang out with the patients. That same day saw the Orlando Magic Backcourt, an organization which, per a team press release, "was created by the Magic players, coaches and basketball operation's wives, girlfriends and family members as a way to give back to the community," host an event to raise money for Edgewood Children's Ranch. And on Sunday, Anderson and Redick took local children on a shopping spree at Target.
I know there's a lot of cynicism associated with the NBA and its NBA Cares initiative, but after reading about the Magic's kindness toward the community, as well as interacting with the players lately, I can assure you that they take it seriously.
The Orlando Sentinel has a photo gallery centered on the Magic's community events. It's definitely worth a look, especially if the idea of Jason Williams trying to ride a bike built for a 5-year-old, small children pelting Matt Barnes with snowballs, and Rashard Lewis bonding with Williams over snowcones amuses you. Also, here's the Magic's official holiday eCard:
Happy holidays from us at OPP as well.