Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Otis Smith Foundation for Children Closing; Board Members Cite Slow Economy, Increased Competition for Funds

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Otis Smith Foundation for Children Closing; Board Members Cite Slow Economy, Increased Competition for Funds

Article excerpt

Byline: JESSIE-LYNNE KERR

After more than 17 years, the Otis Smith Kids Foundation will close its doors at the end of the year.

Smith, 43, who created the foundation while a member of the NBA's Orlando Magic to help at-risk elementary school children in Jacksonville, announced its demise in a news release Wednesday.

The Jacksonville native, who was a basketball star at Forrest High School and Jacksonville University in the early 1980s before turning pro, is now the Magic's general manager and lives in Orlando.

The charity became known in recent years for its peppering the community with colorfully decorated manatees in 2005 and brightly painted big cats in 2007. The statues were auctioned to the public to raise money for the foundation.

"With successful programs and services being provided by folks like Mal Washington, Tony Boselli, Mike Peterson and others," Smith said in the release, "we're confident that the deserving children of Jacksonville are in great hands, and we are honored to have had the opportunity to make an impact on this community over the years."

In the news release announcing the board's decision, Smith said, "We have blazed a trail that many have now followed, and the time has come to hand the torch to the next generation."

He encouraged "donors and friends to support local organizations that mirror our core values."

One gift to Jacksonville's children that will remain is the scholarship program at Florida Community College at Jacksonville.

Bonnie Upright, the foundation's executive director, said the scholarship program is an endowment that will continue. Any child who has been enrolled in one of the foundation's activities can apply for the FCCJ scholarship, she said, not only for academic studies but also for vocational courses.

Since its inception in 1989, the foundation has touched the lives of more than 100,000 at-risk elementary school students, Upright said, each of whom now has the opportunity to attend college at no cost. …

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