Pepsi Stronger Together, the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation, and the Orlando Magic joined forces earlier this month in bringing bright upgrades to Harbor House of Central Florida, the home and center for domestic abuse survivors.
Among the officials breaking ground at Harbor House are the following:
- Shaquille O’Neal, CEO of the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation
- Steve Clifford, head coach of the Orlando Magic
- Terrence Ross, player/guard on the Orlando Magic
- Derek Lewis, president of the south division of PepsiCo Beverages North America
- Michelle Sperzel, CEO of Harbor House
- Undersheriff Mark Canti of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office
- Deputy Chief Jose Velez of the Orlando Police Department
Harbor House provides a safe space for survivors to stay and supplies them with several resources: legal assistance, all-hours crisis hotline, counseling, and much more in the pursuit of justice for these victims. They aim to eradicate and prevent domestic abuse through providing essential services, practicing top treatments, and making the community aware of the cause.
The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation focuses on helping underprivileged youth and giving them the resources they might need to have a brighter future. They want to provide a network of role models to underserved kids who can guide them into achieving their full potential.
“I’ve always believed in role models and how they can positively affect individuals and keep them on the right track. The people here today, with the amazing work they do, are the picture of role models,” said O’Neal.
The partnership broke ground on newly updated basketball courts at Harbor House, which can lead to positive effects in children who are exposed to domestic violence every year. The trend shows a tendency for these children, ranging from 2-10 million yearly, to be at a higher risk of depression, anxiety, isolation, aggression, and continuing the cycle of abuse with their own families. Physical exercise discourages anxiety and social issues while facilitating positive relationships with other children. Accessibility to team sports will help survivors and children channel aggressive energy into physical activity, promote kind interactions, and instill values of teamwork and play.
“Living in a shelter is hard, and it’s even harder as a youth/teenager. Our children are high-risk for emotional, social and behavioral difficulties in life,” said Harbor House of Central Florida CEO Michell Sperzel. “The power of play helps children build resilience, which builds more hope. It gives them stability. They build trust in others. It allows them to believe they can accomplish their dreams.”
Pepsi Stronger Together is pleased to contribute to efforts in Central Florida toward this cause. The initiative launched nationally in May as an attempt to give back to essential workers and invest in local areas. They partner with powerful local organizations in order to strengthen communities and build relationships around the U.S.
“[These organizations] will leave a lasting and positive impact on youth transitioning from a world of domestic violence and help them realize they can achieve their dreams for years to come,” said Sperzel.
The Orlando Magic, the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation, and Harbor House of Central Florida also plan to introduce donations of de-escalation and self-defense training courses. This partnership looks forward to their completed project at the house as they continue to battle against the lasting effects of domestic violence through play, exercise, positive team-building, and the Close the Gap Foundation.
Photos Courtesy of Pepsi Stronger Together