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

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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. According to National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, "The Ellis Island Medals of Honor pay tribute to the ancestry groups that comprise America's unique cultural mosaic."

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(http://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 (http://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.
Two Serbians, Among 100 Recipients, are Awarded the 2007 Ellis Island Medal of Honor
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Vlade Divac with MZI Global CEO Mira Zivkovich and her assistant Ana LazicVlade Divac with MZI Global CEO Mira Zivkovich and her assistant Ana Lazic(May 13, 2006)©Photo: www.mziglobal.comMira Zivkovich with traditional dancersMira Zivkovich with traditional dancers(May 13, 2006)©Photo: www.mziglobal.comCadets marchingCadets marchingNECO has its own military consultant, retired U.S. Army Col. Gene Lombardo, who travels throughout the country to line up in advance the many color guards that perform at the event, representing every branch of the service. All branches of the United States Armed Forces traditionally participate in this spectacular event. ©Photo: www.mziglobal.comThe Metropolitan ClubThe Metropolitan ClubThe grand entrance of the exclusive and private Metropolitan Club, New York City, NY ©Photo: www.mziglobal.comMedalists Vlade Divac and Josip Cermin with Mira ZivkovichMedalists Vlade Divac and Josip Cermin with Mira Zivkovich(May 13, 2006)©Photo: www.mziglobal.comThe ceiling of the Registry Room Great Hall with its sparkling starsThe ceiling of the Registry Room Great Hall with its sparkling starsRegistry Room Great Hall décor of a ceiling full of stars and the American flag, enhanced the evening with a grand sense of heritage and history ©Photo: www.mziglobal.comEllis Island Medal of Honor Gala in the Registry Room of the Great Hall on Ellis IslandEllis Island Medal of Honor Gala in the Registry Room of the Great Hall on Ellis IslandIn a production worthy of Hollywood, filled with glitz and glamour, 1500 guests gathered in this breathtaking venue adorned with flowers, candles and a ceiling full of stars ©Photo: www.mziglobal.comFireworks to honor the medalistsFireworks to honor the medalists©Photo: www.mziglobal.comVlade Divac at NECO cocktail Reception at Metropolitan ClubVlade Divac at NECO cocktail Reception at Metropolitan ClubMay 13, 2006)©Photo: www.mziglobal.comMira Zivkovich and Ana Lazic with German Pilgrims in their traditional attireMira Zivkovich and Ana Lazic with German Pilgrims in their traditional attire(May 13, 2006)©Photo: www.mziglobal.comVlade Divac with Ana Lazic at Metropolitan ClubVlade Divac with Ana Lazic at Metropolitan Club(May 13, 2006)©Photo: www.mziglobal.comMZI Global CEO Mira Zivkovich with the Honor GuardsMZI Global CEO Mira Zivkovich with the Honor Guards(May 13, 2006)©Photo: www.mziglobal.comMZI CEO Mira Zivkovich’s Serbian assistant Ana Lazic standing with the Honor GuardsMZI CEO Mira Zivkovich’s Serbian assistant Ana Lazic standing with the Honor Guards(May 13, 2006)©Photo: www.mziglobal.comVlade Divac with NECO Executive Director Rosemarie TaglioneVlade Divac with NECO Executive Director Rosemarie Taglione(May 13, 2006) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.comNBA Superstar Philanthropist Vlade Divac with MZI Global CEO Mira Zivkovich and her assistant Ana LazicNBA Superstar Philanthropist Vlade Divac with MZI Global CEO Mira Zivkovich and her assistant Ana LazicNBA Superstar Philanthropist Vlade Divac with MZI CEO Mira Zivkovich and her assistant at the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award Ceremony. Zivkovich and her firm are responsible for nominating Divac. (May 13, 2006) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.comNBA Superstar Philanthropist Vlade Divac with MZI Global CEO Mira Zivkovich and her assistant Ana LazicNBA Superstar Philanthropist Vlade Divac with MZI Global CEO Mira Zivkovich and her assistant Ana LazicNBA Superstar Philanthropist Vlade Divac with MZI CEO Mira Zivkovich and her assistant at the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award Ceremony (May 13, 2006) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.comNECO issues a special individual passport, program and VIP ticket to each of its medalists (May 13, 2006)NECO issues a special individual passport, program and VIP ticket to each of its medalists (May 13, 2006)On the big screen in front of 1500 guests, under a 16000 sq foot tent Vlade Divac receives his Ellis Island Metal of Honor (May 13, 2006) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.comNBA Superstar Vlade Divac receives the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in Recognition for the Work His Charity Group Seven Has Done NBA Superstar Vlade Divac receives the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in Recognition for the Work His Charity Group Seven Has Done Vlade Divac enthusiastically receives the Ellis Island Medal of Honor on May 13, 2006. Over 1500 dignitaries were in attendance to see the award presentations. ©Photo: www.mziglobal.comSpecial NECO passport for Vlade DivacSpecial NECO passport for Vlade DivacNECO issues a special individual passport, program and VIP ticket to each of its medalists (May 13, 2006) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.comVlade Divac Proudly Receives His Ellis Island Medal of Honor Vlade Divac Proudly Receives His Ellis Island Medal of Honor Vlade Divac enthusiastically receives the Ellis Island Medal of Honor on May 13, 2006. Over 1500 dignitaries were in attendance to see the award presentations. ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com