Nonprofit gets new hoops for victims of domestic abuse with help from Shaq, Orlando Magic

'We would like to let them know that we love them,’ NBA great says of children at shelter

Harbor House of Central Florida, a nonprofit that helps domestic violence victims, is getting the support from some big names.

Harbor House of Central Florida, a nonprofit that helps domestic violence victims, is getting the support from some big names.

During an event Monday, they celebrated the groundbreaking for two new basketball courts which was made possible with the help from the Pepsi Stronger Together initiative, the Orlando Magic and the Shaquille O’Neal foundation.

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“It’s huge for us because we believe so much in the power of play and we have a lot of kids that live on campus with us for anywhere between 12 weeks to a year,” Harbor House CEO Michele Sperzel said.

It was a big day for Harbor House of Central Florida whose mission is to provide shelter and support to women who are victims of domestic abuse.

Former Magic star and NBA legend O’Neal also attended the groundbreaking and explained why this cause is so important to him.

“Women are the most important people in the world. I am a product that I am because of a woman. My father always taught me you have to protect and provide for your women,” O’Neal said. “Everyone knows I love Orlando. Everyone knows I love taking care of people.”

Sperzel said it was humbling to meet O’Neal in the first place and when he learned they needed something for the kids at Harbor House he came through.

“For me to say, ‘hey, this is something we need’ and he’s like, ‘Absolutely. I’ll get it for you’ and for it to happen is just so fantastic for the kids and so wonderful for all the lives in the future that he is going to be impacting,” Sperzel said.

Additionally, the organization will receive product donations like basketballs and refreshments. The women and staff at Harbor House will also receive special training from Close the Gap foundation.

“We are doing a five-week self-defense curriculum for the women. It’s progressive and at the end of it they’ll be able to recognize mannerisms and signs that something physical might happen again and then ways to escape that if it does get physical ways to defend themselves,” Rich Baker, CEO of Close the GAP foundation, said. “Additionally, we’re training the staff on how to de-escalate situations if one the victims becomes hostile.”

According to the CEO of Harbor House, there are about 600 kids that live at the shelter throughout the year.

For O’Neal, it’s about doing your part to bring communities together.

“The time is now to start rebuilding these communities. Start bringing people closer together and start taking care of the people that need our help the most,” he said.

When asked what message he’d like to say to the kids of Harbor House, O’Neal wants them to know, they can achieve whatever they want and aspire to do great things.

“We would like to let them know that we love them. We will take care of them. We’ll be here for Christmas. We’ll be here anytime they need laptops for school, we’ll be here when they need shoes, clothes anything they need,” he said. “The best I can tell them hang in there. Follow their dreams and you know, times will get better.”