Who doesn’t know Magic Johnson?
As one of the 50 best basketball players of all time and an NBA Hall of Fame inductee, his brilliant career in sports, especially as a point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, is well documented. The man himself is almost universally loved as an example of what a person should be. Magic's life after basketball began with his dedication to a vital cause, bringing awareness to HIV and AIDS prevention through the Magic Johnson Foundation (MJF).
HIV/AIDS prevention is close to Johnson's heart because of his own personal struggle with the disease. The legendary basketball athlete was diagnosed with HIV during a physical exam he had to undergo to join the US Olympic team. In November of 1991, he revealed his situation, and then transformed it, by creating a foundation charged with the mission of raising awareness about the disease. In 1992, he wrote a book, “What You can Do to Avoid AIDS,” to help people understand how to prevent becoming infected with it.
Although, the foundation was initially established to increase an awareness of AIDS and HIV issues, it soon enlarged its mission, branching out to include other advocacies. Among its services are 16 Community Empowerment Centers (CECs), strategically placed in ethnically diverse urban centers where they are needed most, that provide access to and education about technology. The Taylor Michaels Scholarship Program is another, providing both tangible support in the form of scholarships, laptops and software, and the intangible support of mentoring and leadership development to ensure the success of serious young minority scholars. Today, the foundation serves more than 250,000 people every year through its many programs – and that number is growing. Education is an increasingly important part of MJF, and along with existing projects, more programs are being developed to increase computer literacy and employability in this digital age.
Johnson is not just the celebrity face of the foundation, either. He works closely with the staff and is a hands-on Chairman, being heavily involved in the planning and development aspects of new projects, in addition to his many appearances. “There is no better feeling than to touch someone's life, than to impact it,” Johnson said. “There isn't a better feeling in the world.”
Celebrities and notable public figures have given their unwavering support to the Magic Johnson Foundation. Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Arsenio Hall and Justin Bieber are among its many active supporters. Arsenio Hall raised more than $400,000 for the organization in 2012 on the reality show, “Celebrity Apprentice.” Millions of fans give both financial support and in-kind support, like donating goods and services or spreading the word about events and then participating actively in them.
By his presence, Johnson is able to garner the support of corporate sponsors like American Airlines, Aetna, Best Buy, FedEx, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Toyota, to name a few. Corporations know him well from his days on the basketball court, and he immediately has their trust. In working with MJF, each corporate partner has a uniquely pointed program working in concert with its own charitable mission.
“There is strength in numbers and the Magic Johnson Foundation is in a great position to expand with our partners,” said Amelia Williamson, MJF President. “While our core focuses are HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, college access and digital literacy – there are several paths to get there and we want to ensure our approach is both strategic and holistic.” Among the new initiatives in place this year are Best Buy Tech summer camps and National HIV testing day efforts.
The foundation has donated millions of dollars to community empowerment and educational efforts. The amount given to mobilize communities toward self-sufficiency is said to be even larger than that given by some governmental organizations. Thousands of young students were able to fulfill dreams of earning a college degree because of the generosity of MJF supporters and the unwavering passion of the man himself toward helping people struggling to achieve their dreams. “Through our continued work in educational empowerment, it is our hope to cultivate, inspire and help achieve self-sufficiency in underserved communities,” Williamson said. “Money spent in this way is never wasted, either.
The Magic Johnson Foundation earned four stars for “sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency.”
To kick off their 20th anniversary celebration, the Magic Johnson Foundation launched “Point Forward Day.” At a time when the mainstream media is calling HIV/AIDS “the forgotten disease,” the fact still exists that 1 out of 5 people infected with HIV is totally unaware of it. Free testing was offered in different cities across the country, and to encourage more people to find out their status, government officials, celebrities and athletes joined in this momentous and successful effort. With a tag line “take the test and take control,” all throughout the year, free HIV screenings were offered in different urban areas throughout the country. To motivate as many as possible to take the test, the foundation gave away $25 gift cards to the first 200 participants just to negate the fear factor, and make it more attractive and inviting.
As its 20th anniversary year passes into history, the Magic Johnson Foundation continues to look forward into the future, working to touch more lives in America as it passes around the torch of hope through greater HIV/AIDS awareness, people empowerment and education.
For more information, please visit: www.magicjohnson.com
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