Hundreds of exuberant Fort Myers kids witnessed "Magic" on Wednesday.
Hall of Fame NBA legend, businessman, and professional speaker Earvin "Magic" Johnson spoke at the Quality Life Center's call to action fundraiser at the STARS?Complex in Fort Myers. Hundreds of kids eagerly awaited Magic's arrival at the Center, where he held a brief press conference about 6 p.m. before greeting about 1,000 people in attendance.
The nonprofit known affectionately as "The Q," the Center has been a safe haven for children in southwest Florida for more than 20 years, transforming the community by developing the potential of underserved populations in the area with adult job development training, and early learning and youth development programs, according to their website, qualitylifecenter.org.
Abdul Muhammed (left), Quality Life Center executive director, with Magic Johnson at Wednesday’s fundraising conference.
Magic lauded the leadership of the Q's executive director Abdul Muhammad and board of directors member Ted Sottong.
"I'm here because they do great work," Johnson said. "I'm a product of a place just like this."
Sottong is also president of Pickup the Ball, a nonprofit in Fort Myers that seeks to strengthen pickup basketball in communities across the country. Sottong reached out to Magic via Pickup the Ball hoping not only to raise funds, but also awareness for the Quality Life Center.
"I think it's very important that Mr. Johnson has come here," Sottong said. "One of the things we haven't done well is get our name out there. Mr. Johnson being here has allowed us to do that in a big way."
According to Connie Ramos-Williams of CONRIC PR & Marketing, the Quality Life Center is in jeopardy because of a looming $700,000 balloon mortgage payment due in March.
Magic bumped fists with any child within reach, even picking up a little boy with a birthday hat to pose for a photo. He spoke passionately about the importance of getting these kids a quality education, and keeping the center open to keep them safe.
"I see all these beautiful kids who have a safe haven at the Q The Q is all about making sure that these young people understand that education will be their key to success in life," Johnson said. "It also provides other skills for them. We need corporations in Fort Myers and surrounding this incredible city to not only invest in the arts and incredible colleges, but also invest in the Q."
And, he put his money where is mouth is.
"I didn't come from California just to talk to people," Magic declared. "I'm not going to ask the community that first I shouldn't do myself. I realize I should do my part, so I'm going to invest $100,000 myself."
The Q erupted with cheers, one Magic-sized step closer to keeping their haven open for business.
"We're very pleased for this day to come," said Muhammad. "He has parlayed his skill, symbolized it in business, and has become an extremely successful model for all children, people throughout the country. We are very grateful for his presence."
To learn more about Quality Life Center or to sign up for the next tour date, call 334-2797 or visit qualitylifecenter.org.