Football fans root for their home team while supporting families in Central Florida

The Orlando Ravens Flock fill the bar on game day, then turn that passion into charity

ORLANDO, Fla. – Central Florida is a community of transplants. Most of us moved here from somewhere else.

And the ties to our hometown can be strong.

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We met one group who bond over food and football. They root for their native city - but continue to give back right here in Orlando.

Every Sunday during the N.F.L. season, fans of the Baltimore Ravens fill the seats in the Brooklyn South Bar at the Boardwalk Bowl in east Orange County.

Michael Shorb started the Orlando Ravens Flock fan club 13 years ago.

“There were about six of us that met at a small little bar to watch the game,” Shorb remembers. “That six grew to 30, then 100. Now 3,500 members follow us on our Orlando Ravens Flock Facebook page.”

Shorb decorates the bar with signs, flags and purple lights to match the team colors. His sound system has a library of Baltimore Ravens-themed fight songs.

Yvonne Wray arrived early and grabbed a front row seat near the big screen TV.

“Everyone is rooting for the same team,” she said. “I can yell and scream from my couch but here there are others yelling too. So that’s fun.”

Wray was quick to point out her “Raven Fries,” seasoned with Old Bay.

“It makes a difference,” she laughed. “I’ve got a little piece of home to sprinkle on the food.”

Ana Palmer, dressed in a Ravens jersey, has been coming to games here for eight years.

“We love our Ravens,” she said. “We come every single week.”

Shorb believes his group is one of the largest Ravens fan groups in the nation.

“We’re all from Baltimore and this gives us a chance to forget about our worries and just watch some football together,” Shorb said, adding that big games can attract a crowd of hundreds.

Shorb realized that he could tap into that large group of passionate followers and do some good for his new home here in Orlando.

“What can I do beyond football?” Shorb asked himself. “With this many people we can do something really constructive.”

Ten years ago he started the Orlando Ravens Flock Adopt-A-Family program. The group pools their money and adopts a family they feel could use the help around the holidays.

“We take them under our wing, our raven wing, and make sure they can celebrate Christmas with the rest of us.” This year they sponsored a family with nine children.

“To see the look on those kid’s faces when those SUVs pull up and Santa Claus comes out and starts pulling out presents. It’s unbelievable,” Shorb said. “We’re just a group that comes together to watch football but it’s something that then you realize what Christmas is all about.”

Wray said the event echoes the sentiment that Christmas is a time of giving.

“We know there are people less fortunate. It’s great to be able to help out,” she said.

Ana Palmer agreed.

“It’s an awesome event,” Palmer said. “It makes you feel good and it becomes much bigger when you have a group coming together.”

The Ravens ended their season with a loss to their rivals, the Steelers. Shorb is already looking forward to next season.

“Win, lose or draw in this football game, we won on Christmas Day,” he said.

About the Author:

Paul is a Florida native who graduated from the University of Central Florida. As a multimedia journalist, Paul enjoys profiling the people and places that make Central Florida unique.