-Magic’s Terrence Ross joined Pepsi recently to spread some holiday cheer to local youth-
By Josh Cohen,
Orlando, Fla. — Not long after he was acquired by the Orlando Magic in a trade over seven years ago, Nikola Vucevic could feel the love and support from fans across Central Florida.
Those early cheers inspired the 7-foot, 260-pounder, who made his first All-Star appearance last season. Every day he’s in the gym training and preparing for competition, the 29-year-old thinks about all that support because, without it, he’s aware it would have been even harder to reach his potential and become one of the best players in Magic history.
Whenever he can give back to the community and lend a helping hand, Vucevic jumps at the opportunity to do so as a way to show his gratitude all while helping others, especially children, get the most out of their own potential.
The latest example of this came on Sunday, Dec. 22 when he and teammate Khem Birch teamed up with Pepsi to take 100 children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida on a holiday shopping spree at a local Walmart. Each child received $230 gift cards, courtesy of Pepsi, Vucevic and Walmart.
Of all the charity work Vucevic has done with the Magic, the annual holiday shopping spree, he says, ranks up there as one of his favorites.
“Being around kids for the holidays, I know it means a lot to them to be around us,” said Orlando’s starting center, who has now participated in this event several times. “You get to pick toys with them, video games, different things. It makes me feel like a kid at times too.”
“The Magic do a great job going out in the community and helping the community,” he added. “We as players do too. It’s very important to give back to the community. We are in a special position. I think even just for the kids to be around us, spend some time with us, I think they enjoy it.”
The support from the fans has also motivated Birch, a 27-year-old who defied incredible odds to make the NBA. The 6-foot-9, 234-pounder didn’t get drafted by an NBA team, forcing him to prove himself overseas. There, Magic executives noticed his growth as a player, which led them to sign the hard-nosed big man to a contract in 2017.
Birch’s basketball journey, in many ways, is a source of fuel for youth. It sends a message that dreams can come true if you want something bad enough.
“I’m still kind of young in NBA years, three years, but I think eventually my story will get out there and eventually I will go around and explain to kids that anything is possible,” he said.
Being on a platform that allows the Montreal native to make a positive impact on kids is something he truly adores about his job. And from his viewpoint, his Magic teammates share that same thirst for helping youth reach their full potential.
“A lot of guys want to do community work. Not just to fit in, but I feel like it’s kind of like a culture in Orlando to give back,” Birch said. “I know a lot of guys want to do it.”
Sunday’s shopping spree was the second one the Magic and Pepsi have participated in together this month. Less than two weeks ago, Terrence Ross and Pepsi took 75 kids from Parramore’s New Image Youth Center on a shopping extravaganza after handing them $200 gift cards (courtesy of Ross and Pepsi) and treating them to a pizza party.
“Community outreach is extremely important to both organizations. That’s what makes it really special and quite fun and actually pretty easy to do when you have organizations that are on the same page here,” said Derek Lewis, the President of PepsiCo’s South Division. “We’ve put this framework in place for years. This is an annual event. It’s a really exciting time. The support we receive from the Magic is tremendous.”