By John Denton
Oct. 19, 2017
ORLANDO – The most recent winner of the Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award, Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton said on Thursday that he will remember the late matriarch of the DeVos family as “a caring lady.’’
Helen DeVos, wife of Amway co-founder and Magic owner Rich DeVos and a difference-making philanthropist for decades, died on Wednesday following complications from a stroke. She was 90 years old.
Payton, who won the Magic’s annual enrichment award in the spring for his tireless work in the Central Florida and Louisiana communities, said Mrs. DeVos made quite an impression on him with her desire to always help others.
“A caring lady and she definitely wanted us to help the community as much as possible,’’ Payton said of his numerous talks with Mrs. DeVos over the past three seasons in Orlando. “She really cared about this team and she just always wanted to make sure that we were playing hard and working hard. So it’s hard (emotionally) now.’’
Mrs. DeVos leaves behind husband, Rich, four children, 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Rich and Helen DeVos have been married since 1953.
Rich DeVos, 91, has been the Senior Chairman of the Magic’s ownership group for the past 27 years. The ownership of the Magic has always been a family affair as the DeVos’ four children (Dick, Dan, Cheri and Doug) are heavily involved in the direction of the franchise. Dan DeVos serves as the Magic’s Chairman/Governor.
Magic CEO Alex Martins, who has known the DeVos family since it bought the NBA franchise in September of 1991, said on Thursday that plans are in the works for the Magic to wear a uniform patch for the rest of the season to honor the memory of Mrs. DeVos. Orlando, which plays in Brooklyn on Friday and in Cleveland on Saturday, most likely won’t have the jersey patches affixed until next week.
Martins spoke passionately about Mrs. DeVos’ love for the team. Martins also credited her for shaping the franchise’s strong commitment to giving back to those most in need. The Magic annually donate more than $2 million to the Central Florida community by way of sponsored events, donated tickets, autographed merchandise and grants. Magic community programs impact an estimated 100,000 children annually and the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation has donated more than $22 million to local non-profit organizations over the past 27 years.
“I would describe her as the heart of the DeVos family and this organization,’’ Martins said of Mrs. DeVos, who led the family in giving $9 million to the University of Central Florida for the DeVos Sport Business Management Program through the years. “She’s best known in Grand Rapids (Michigan) for being an incredible philanthropist and that’s what she’s conveyed to us as an organization for 27 years – it’s about giving back. She has always taught us to make sure that we support those who need our help and she was the creator of the Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment award, which encourages our players to give back to the community. She was a true matriarch, she loved this team and she watched every game.’’
Martins addressed Magic players and coaches prior to Thursday’s practice to inform them of Mrs. DeVos’ death. He spoke to the team about her unwavering support of the Magic and her desire for the franchise to always try and make a difference in the lives of others in the community. At the end of the talk, the players held a moment of silence for Mrs. DeVos and head coach Frank Vogel led the team in a chant of, “1, 2, 3, Mrs. D.’’
“We had the DeVos dinner every year and we were scheduled to do it next week and that was the most time that I was able to sit down with her and talk with her and I really enjoyed her presence and her way,’’ Vogel said. “She was kind of the backbone of the family. It’s a big loss, we’re all feeling it today and it’s a sad day.’’
Martins said that he had spoken with Dan DeVos on Wednesday and Thursday and he was informed that Rich and the entire family was still in the mourning phase of the loss of Mrs. DeVos. She had remained in relatively good health until last week, so her death was death came as a shock to the family.
Martins insisted that Mrs. DeVos’ legacy as a charitable philanthropist, a champion of the arts, higher education and businesses and being a loyal Magic fan will live on forever in the franchise. Martins noted that Mrs. DeVos “carried the flag of philanthropy’’ and that leadership will continue to shape the Magic on and off the basketball court.
“She absolutely loved this team and loved it every bit as much as Mr. DeVos and the rest of the family does,’’ Martins said. “What she always asked of our players was for them to play with integrity, play with passion and go hard. And as I told (the team) this morning, `We should carry ourselves this year in that spirit for her.’’’
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