Monday, November 05, 2007

PI: Divac chooses charity

When we last checked in with our old friend Vlade Divac, he was being named an executive for Real Madrid, continuing his post-NBA career in team management. Divac had been president of his old team, KK Partizan, for many years, and had been a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers since ending his playing days in 2005.

But Divac, 39, has awoken to a different calling. He has given up working day-to-day in basketball in order to help both his countrymen and refugees in Africa rebuild their lives by having a place to live.

Divac's "You Can Too" campaign is attempting to raise 8 million euros (about $11.6 million) to restore abandoned homes throughout Serbia and Africa, providing shelter for 2,000 people.

A three-day charity event last month in his hometown of Prijepolje - where Divac's former teammates Chris Webber, Scot Pollard and Glen Rice, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who is of Serbian and Croatian descent, attended - raised almost 1 million euros. Lakers forward Vladmir Radmonovic, whose father was in the Serbian army and whose family was left homeless after the United Nations-led bombing of that country in 1994, donated $100,000.

"It's too much work," Divac said last week from Spain. "I decided to go and just do the humanitarian work. Doing an everyday job, you don't have time to do these things. This makes me feel real good."

Divac opened a museum in Prijepolje as part of the charity event but wants to do more. His group is planning a charity fashion show next month and trying to organize a fund-raiser in the United States next year. His wife (Ana) will run the campaign in coordination with the U.N.

"What I tried to do was use my name to raise money," Divac said. "Those people are going to do the work on the field. I'm trying to be involved because I want to make sure that the money goes to the right people. . . . We came up with the idea. Let's use this for a positive cause. Serbia has the most refugees in Europe, and Africa has the most refugees in the world."

Divac also wants to bring positive attention to his native country after years of dealing with negative publicity from the former regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

"I want to go around the world to meet with Serbian people everywhere," Divac said. "That's why I want to use Serbian people, because we've gotten a lot of bad press the last few years. We've got a good side, too. . . . I want to show what we really are. I think this is a good way to do it."

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