ORLANDO – Not much, if anything, beats seeing the smile on someone’s face the instant they first lay their eyes on presents you gave them. Many would argue it’s the best – and most gratifying – part of the holiday season, especially when you know the gifts you picked out for them are going to hit that soft spot in their heart.
The Orlando Magic can proudly say they were able to experience this priceless feeling twice in the same month with Shawntia Benton and her family.
The first time was on Dec. 3 when the Magic, Jewett Orthopaedic and Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County handed Benton the keys to her brand new Apopka home.
Then on Dec. 23 at halftime of Orlando’s game against the Miami Heat, the Magic and several of their partners surprised Benton and her two sons with an assortment of gifts including:
- Toys, games, television
- Corkcicle $500 gift card
- Free Aquafina for an entire year from Pepsi
- Free pizza from Papa John’s
- A two-night stay at any domestic Hilton hotel
- Olive Garden $100 gift card
- One-year supply of Dippin’ Dots ice cream
- One-year supply of pretzels from J&J Snack Foods
- $1,000 check from Jewett Orthopaedic
All part of the Magic’s 10th annual “Big Give,” the Bentons were also provided transportation to and from the Amway Center, were treated to dinner in the Fields Ultimate Lounge and sat courtside during the game.
“It’s really heartwarming for us to have the opportunity to do that (surprise the family and shower them with gifts),” Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “This is something that we have been doing on an annual basis for a family in need for many years now and it never gets old.”
“This community gives so much to us and we do everything we can throughout the entire year to give back to the community in many different ways,” he added. “It’s really important this time of year to assist those who are in greatest need.”
Extremely appreciative of the Magic and their partners’ support and generosity, Benton felt like a rock star all night and part of the Magic family.
“I’m very excited, it meant a lot,” she said. “I’m not used to being showered with gifts at all. I don’t have any family here, so it’s something new to me.”
Even though the family doesn’t officially move in to the new three-bedroom home until next month, Benton can already tell the relocation is going to help them be healthier and happier. Although her oldest son, 4-year-old Daimonee, just started attending school and her youngest, Nicholas, was born only five months ago, the native of Upstate New York is ecstatic knowing they will have a safe place to do their homework after school while pursuing extracurricular activities.
“Now that we’re going to be in a house it’s something we can grow in,” said Benton, who will be starting college soon to become a registered nurse.
The Magic and their players have been very active in the community throughout this holiday season.
Aaron Gordon, Jonathon Simmons, Khem Birch, Jerian Grant and Terrence Ross each spent time taking kids on various holiday shopping sprees earlier in the week. D.J. Augustin, meanwhile, hosted 20 kids from Parramore’s New Image Youth Center during Sunday’s game and presented them with FILA products including clothes, shoes, a backpack and more.
“It’s important to me because I grew up not able to go to basketball games and at times I didn’t get everything I wanted for Christmas,” Augustin said. “Just to be able to have these kids here and given this opportunity and this experience, it’s great.”
“It brings me a lot of joy, especially at a game like this that I’m about to play in,” the Magic veteran added about seeing all the smiles on the children’s faces.