Orlando Magic Thrill Kids with ‘Back to School’ Bash
Nine-year-old Alexus Davis was on a rock and in a hard place. Some 30 feet off the ground while attempting to scale a rock climbing exhibit, Davis pulled hard with her tiny hands and used her left knee to push herself even higher.
But just before she was about to push the button at the top of the rock tower, Davis lost her grip and went plunging downward as she was thankfully slowed by the safety rope attached around her waist. As she went downward and her hair flapped in the wind, Davis had a wide, toothy grin splashed across her face.
“To me it was more fun than scary,” Davis said. “I just really wanted to push that button at the top. I‘m ready to go again and again because this is so fun.”
Davis was one of more than 300 children who took part in the Orlando Magic’s “Back to School Bash” Tuesday morning at the Downtown Recreation Complex in Orlando. The event was to benefit the Parramore Kidz Zone and others from the New Image Youth Center.
As part of the back to school event, the Magic provided lunch and surprised every youth with backpacks filled with school supplies. Other activities for the PKZ youth featured inflatables, a rock wall, a video game truck, laser tag events, water balloon games and more. And to top things off, the Paul Mitchell School and Hairvolution provided free haircuts for the children prior to school starting.
The day also included appearances by Magic Community Ambassadors Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw. The backpacks and school supplies were courtesy of the Magic, Dixon Ticonderoga Prang Power, the Glen Davis Foundation, UnitedHealthcare, PepsiCo, Amway, McDonald’s and Florida Blue. Additional event contributions were provided by Fox Sports Florida, Power 95.3, Star 94.5 and Florida Hospital.
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful event that the Magic and their sponsors put on for all of the kids in this neighborhood,” said Lisa Early, the City of Orlando’s director of family parks and recreation. “This is just one thing of so many things that the Magic have done for this community. For years they have been investing in the future of the kids in this (Parramore) neighborhood. If you go around the neighborhood you will see computer labs, playgrounds, tutoring for kids, ticket giveaways and events like this – it’s been an ongoing series of investments that the Magic have made for the people here. They are an amazing organization and they are really committed from the heart toward benefiting kids.”
Linda Landman-Gonzalez, the Magic’s vice president of community relations and government affairs, said that Tuesday’s event is just another way that the Magic look to impact children and truly make a difference in the community. Magic staffers worked the event as part of the Magic Volunteer Program (MVP) and have put in more than 7,000 hours in the community this year. In honor of the Magic’s service throughout Central Florida, the franchise was recently awarded the Community Service Champion award last week as part of the Orlando Sentinel’s Top 100 Companies for Working Families.
“I’m not sure how excited the kids were when I asked them if they were to go back to school, but this is an extraordinary event,” Landman-Gonzalez said. “This is an event we work on for months and we don’t just show up that day. There is a lot here for the kids to do. All of our corporate sponsors give us product to give away. And it allows us to give these kids some of the tools to be able to go back to school and be successful.”
Eleven-year-old Davianer Emilien wasn’t necessarily successful at the water balloon toss, getting splashed all over her legs and skirt as the egg-shaped object slipped through her hands and hit the ground. But she didn’t seem to mind the wetness considering the fun she was having at the event sponsored by the Magic.
“To me this is the best place in the world,” said Emilien, who was attending the event along with her twin sister Davier, who both attend Fern Creek Middle School. “I still want to get my face painted and climb the rock wall. … I like school and can’t wait to go back, but this is a really fun day, too.”
Monique Kendrick, an after-school tutor at the New Image Youth Center, said the Magic should be praised for putting on events like Tuesday’s to help area children better make the transition back into school mode.
“For them to show up down here and put forth an interest it shows that they are supportive of the kids down here and they want them to be successful,” Kendrick said.
Daianer said her goal is to be a basketball player when she grows up and said her favorite Magic player is Jason Richardson. As for Equanzzia Pettigrew, a sixth-grader at Howard Middle School, her favorite Magic player is, fittingly enough, Dwight Howard. She spent much of her day on Tuesday grooving to the “Just Dance” Wii video game, but kept her eyes on the Walking Water Bubbles. She was happy to have a cool place to hang out on Tuesday before starting back to school next week.
“I always like doing events at the PKZ and if I had my choice I’d come here every single day,” said Pettigrew, 11. “I’m more into dancing and cheerleading so I’ll be the one here playing the dancing game all day. I’m having so much fun.”
By John Denton