There were lots of cheers at the Amway Center Thursday night as the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation presented 17 Central Florida non-profit organizations with checks totaling $1.05 million. But there may have been few people happier than Elisha Gonzalez Bonnewitz, who leads Valencia College’s Take Stock In Children program — which was one of four organizations to receive a $100,000 check.
“It is an exciting day at Valencia! The Orlando Magic has committed to being legendary on and off the court, and their commitment to our community is unprecedented. Their financial support allows us to continue to provide mentors, scholarships and hope to so many underserved students,” said Bonnewitz, who will use the grant money to offer more scholarships to more at-risk children.
Valencia’s Take Stock In Children program pairs community leader mentors with students starting in the 8th grade. The program rewards students with a 2+2 Florida Prepaid scholarship opportunity to students who successfully graduate from high school. Students can attend a two-year community college and state university of their choice.
Over the past 22 years, the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation has distributed more than $17 million to nonprofits in Central Florida.
“To raise so much money for the children of Central Florida and for organizations, many of which are working with disadvantaged youth in our area, is amazing,’’ Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “For a third consecutive year we’ve been able to give away $1 million, which we’re incredibly proud of and we’re proud of the work these organizations are doing. For us to be able to give back to the community and help the lives of kids who need our help, it’s so gratifying.’’
Four organizations received $100,000 in grant money. They were: Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida ($100,000), The Early Learning Coalition ($100,000), Hope CommUnity Center ($100,000) and the Valencia College Foundation’s Orange County Take Stock in Children Program ($100,000).
The other 2013 grant recipients were: Adult Literacy League ($30,000), Beta Center ($76,000), Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida ($50,000), Elevate Orlando ($50,000), Florida Senior Programs ($50,000), Foundation for Foster Children ($25,000), Foundation for Orange County Public Schools ($60,000), Foundation for Seminole State College of Florida ($50,000), Hebni Nutrition Consultants ($49,000), Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando ($50,000), Orange County Library System ($60,000), The Gift of Swimming ($25,000) and the University of Central Florida Foundation ($75,000).
The recipients were chosen after a five-stage process that began in July of 2012. The beneficiaries were recommended by the OMYF “VIP” Committee and approved by the McCormick Foundation’s Board of Directors. The McCormick Foundation, which operates the Orlando Sentinel Family Fund, matches all donations to the Orlando Magic Youth Fund at 50 cents on the dollar. With the Orlando Magic and the McCormick Foundation paying all campaign and administrative expenses, 100 percent of all donations, plus the matching funds, is given to qualified nonprofit organizations
The grant money is raised through donations by the Magic’s corporate partners, the Black Tie and Tennies Gala, the OMYF Open golf tournament, 50/50 raffles during games and online and in-game memorabilia auctions.
“There has always been a focus with the Magic on the youth and how we can assist them. There are a lot of challenges out there and we’ve always thought it is important for the youth to be well taken care of because they are the ones who are going to become productive members of our society,’’ said Dan DeVos, chairman of the Orlando Magic. “There is a lot of joy of seeing this event. The organizations here are proven successes and they will take the funds that they receive to expand or offer new or different services that will definitely have an impact on Central Florida. So it’s great to see the good that they are doing, the results they are getting and seeing the excitement in their eyes when they see the checks they are receiving.’’
Take Stock in Children of Orange County began in 2008 with 50 student participants from the three Orange County middle schools considered to be the most in need (Lockhart, Lee and Howard middle schools). Today, there are 155 children in the program. This spring, 49 of the students — the first ones in the program — will graduate from high school this year and begin their journey to college.
To be awarded college scholarships, students must stay in school, maintain good grades, exhibit good behavior, remain crime and drug free, and meet with their mentors. Students are held accountable; if they do not fulfill our program standards, they risk losing their valuable college scholarship.