ORLANDO, Fla. — Many of the kids in the Strong Families-Strong Futures program at the Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka, Fla., hail from the Caribbean or South America. They struggle with the English language and cultural differences. To them, soccer, not basketball, reigns supreme. That didn’t stop the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation from giving the Hope Center a $100,000 grant last year.
With an annual budget of only $750,000, the Hope Center serves 2,000 elementary and high-school aged kids throughout central Florida. The center offers academic and non-academic services which focus on dropout prevention. In addition to school programs, it cultivates leadership skills and aides families in the process of integrating into American society.
The $100,000 grant from the Orlando Magic Youth Fund accounted for a large chunk of the Hope Center’s funding last year. “It was miraculous for us. We’ve been around for 40 years but we’re not an organization that’s gone after large-dollar grants. We don’t go after national and federal projects and instead get a lot of our money locally,” said Laura Firtel, Director of Program Development at the Hope Center.
Recently, members of the Orlando Magic organization ran a basketball camp at the Hope Center. Despite being “footballers,” Magic camp instructors were able to overcome cultural barriers through truly caring about the kids they were working with.
“We’ve seen so many examples of the Magic being more than just a basketball team,” said Firtel. “They [kids] generally aren’t basketball players because they come from countries where soccer is king. We didn’t think they’d take to basketball, but they ultimately loved it because of the charisma and enthusiasm of the players. It was wonderful for the kids.”
The grant was only a part of the massive commitment the Orlando Magic has made to the Hope Center. The two organizations are working together to secure and plan the future of the center. What started as a gift of money has become a relationship that extends far beyond the dollar sign.
“We want close partnerships with the organizations that take part with us and feel close to what we do. It’s the largest grant award we’ve ever gotten. It’s huge and makes all the difference in the world for us,” said Firtel.
The Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, which was established in 1988 to help at risk children in central Florida realize their full potential, supports programs that empower families.
Grants and scholarships given by the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation have benefited over one million children. Through support of corporate sponsors, season ticket holders, private donations, and fund-raising events, $16 million has been distributed.
For the Magic’s work and commitment to the kids in Apopka, The Good In Sports awards the organization with a Gold Star and we look forward to seeing more great events!
- For more information or to make a donation, please visit the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation’s website: http://www.nba.com/magic/omyf.html
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