ORLANDO, FL--(Marketwired - November 23, 2016) - Family has always been extremely important to Serge Ibaka.
His parents inspired him to start playing basketball at a young age. His father played professionally in Africa and on the Republic of Congo national team. His mother played on the Democratic Republic of Congo national team. He also is the third youngest of 18 children.
Ibaka's admiration for his parents shows on the court. Ibaka wore jersey No. 9 -- his dad's playing number -- in Oklahoma City and wears jersey No. 7 -- his mom's number -- in Orlando.
On Tuesday, Nov. 22, Ibaka, along with Magic Community Ambassadors Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw and volunteers from the Amway Corporation, spread family pride and togetherness in the Central Florida community. They helped distribute 450 Thanksgiving meals to underserved families at the Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center.
"Always feels good to give back," Ibaka said. "Giving back is not about old place or new place. It is about something you love to do."
"(Family) is important to me because I come from a big family," he added. "Everywhere I go I have a lot of friends and family."
The donated meals were made possible thanks to the generosity of the Serge Ibaka Foundation, Amway and the Magic. Goya Foods also donated items for each of the families bags. Now, many more local families can appreciate the importance of Thanksgiving and enjoy what many others take for granted each year.
"This is something we look forward to every year," Amway Corp. Community Representative Kelly Norton said. "It's our chance to come into Central Florida, which is certainly a second home for us, and give back and be a part of it and make sure these families have a wonderful Thanksgiving."
"It's very fulfilling to see these folks come in through the lines and they couldn't be happier," she added. "Their bags are full, their hearts are happy and then to walk up and see Serge Ibaka standing here handing out turkeys it really just finishes it off for them. It doesn't get any better than that."
Ibaka has been recognized for his community contributions in the past by the NBA. He received the NBA Community Assist Award in April 2014. He also pledged $315,000 to the "UNICEF Get Boys and Girls in the Game" project to help develop a pair of orphanages in his hometown of Brazzaville, Congo.
Tuesday's event was just an appetizer to what will be happening on Thanksgiving Day. Magic CEO Alex Martins, players and other team volunteers will spend Thursday morning at the Coalition for the Homeless thanks to the generosity of Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel. They will help serve a holiday breakfast for the 24th year.
The Magic were recently awarded with three Orlando Business Journal 2016 Corporate Philanthropy Awards in the medium company category for volunteer hours, charitable contributions and in-kind giving. They also raised more than $300,000 for Central Florida youth during last week's annual Orlando Magic Youth Foundation golf tournament. This was the most money raised in the event's 26-year history.
"Giving back and helping our community is one of our core values," Martins said during the golf event. "Our mission is to be world champions on and off the court and today was spectacular."
*Please credit all photos to Gary Bassing, Orlando Magic
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