Monday, July 17, 2006

Vlade Divac, Global Basketball Ambassador and Tireless Philanthropist, Awarded Ellis Island Medal of Honor

(PRWEB) May 16, 2006 -- Vlade Divac, recently retired NBA All-Star and current scout with the Los Angeles Lakers, whose achievements off the court are as impressive as those he had on the court, was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor on May 13, 2006. The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations awards the medal to outstanding American citizens who live a life dedicated to community service, promoting American values, and building bridges between ethnic communities living within the United States and abroad. According to NECO, "The Ellis Island Medals of Honor pay tribute to the ancestry groups that comprise America's unique cultural mosaic."

"I was very honored and humbled to be included into such a distinguished group of medalists. Receiving the Ellis Island Medal of Honor was one of the highlights of my life and I certainly plan to contribute to this great nation for many years to come. I would like to thank all the immigrants who enabled my family to live in this country as well as all Serbian people whom I had a chance to proudly represent at this wonderful event. " - Vlade Divac, Los Angeles Lakers

Divac, who was born in Yugoslavia (presently Serbia and Montenegro), was among the first Eastern European immigrants to be drafted into the NBA when he was selected as a first-round pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1989. Divac established himself as one of the most versatile centers in the league, joining basketball greats Hakeen Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabar as the only players to amass 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds and 1,500 blocked shots. His brilliant career, which spanned from 1989 until 2005, was instrumental in paving the way for the wave of talented European immigrants who continue to make their presence felt in the NBA.

Divac is the cofounder of The Group Seven Children's Foundation(www.groupseven.org), an organization dedicated to assisting children who have been displaced and impoverished due to the break up of a nation. The group has raised more than $2 million dollars for humanitarian projects related to its cause. Divac has been instrumental in making housing available to children and their families in tsunami-ravaged Indonesia, providing books and classroom instructional materials to children in Ethiopia and offering emergency aid including diapers, water, and other essential assistance to survivors of Hurricane Katrina in the United States.

Divac's other accomplishments include:

•Establishing computer learning centers in Serbia-Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina that brought students separated by war together through a computer-based curriculum;
•Making new housing available to children and their families in tsunami-ravaged Indonesia;
•Providing books and classroom instructional materials to children in Ethiopia;
•Delivering clothing sets to children living in refugee shelters in Serbia;
•Offering emergency aid including diapers, water, and other essential assistance to survivors of Hurricane Katrina in the United States;
•Distributing school-supply kits and winter shoes to children in Montenegro;
•Supporting after school programs in the Sacramento, California area.
•Delivering food parcels to refugee families in Serbia;
•Training elementary school children in Serbia's eight largest cities in the basics of dental hygiene.

His philanthropic work has earned Divac widespread recognition, including the NBA's Citizenship Award, Sporting News "Good Guys" Award, the "Good Samaritan" Award from International Orthodox Christian Charities and a Medal of Merit from the Serbian Unity Congress. Divac also serves as a United Nations "Goodwill Ambassador" and has participated in the NBA's "Basketball Without Borders" initiative.

At the May 13th ceremony, Divac's table was the most visited by news organizations and fellow event attendees. Dignitaries, fellow nominees, and others clamored to chat with the seven-foot-one-inch superstar athlete and philanthropist. Also at Divac's table was Mira Zivkovich, who nominated Divac for the award. Zivkovich is the CEO and Founder of MZI Global Marketing (www.mziglobal.com), a firm that specializes in helping companies connect to ethnic consumers living within the United States. MZI actively promotes cultural achievements and the value of diversity in America and is also responsible for nominating one of last year's recipients, Serbian-American businessman Thomas Stankovich.

At the black-tie affair, Divac was honored alongside fellow awardees that included Tom Ridge, Former Homeland Security Director; Rita Cosby, Host of MSNBC's "Live & Direct;" and legendary entertainers Siegfried & Roy. In the past, former Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon have been awarded the prestigious Medal, as have other luminous public figures such as General Colin Powell, Frank Sinatra, Donald Trump, Lee Iacocca and Barbara Walters.

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