NEW YORK, Mar. 13, 2006– In recognition of Charlie Villanueva’s outstanding efforts in the community, and for his on-going philanthropic work, the NBA announced today it will honor the Toronto Raptors forward with the Community Assist Award for the month of February.

Villanueva

Villanueva visits with families affected by Alopecia Areata, a condition he has been living with since childhood, at selected every Raptors home and away games. In all, the rookie has met with children and their families in 16 NBA cities and by season’s end will have met with over 800 people affected by Alopecia. During NBA All-Star 2006 in Houston, Villanueva participated in a number of NBA Cares Community events, including the opening of a new NBA Cares Learn and Play Center at McDade Elementary School and a visit to the Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital.

Villanueva has embraced his condition and acts as a role model for many people, accepting and embracing his differences and encouraging others to do the same. He was named the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF) spokesperson in July 2005 and has been working with the organization since early 2004. As part of his work with NAAF, he has reached out to as many children affected by Alopecia Areata as he can.

During the season, he has used road trips to visit with NAAF groups across the country. He meets with local children and adults affected by Alopecia Areata during pregame warm-ups, distributing autographed photos, taking pictures and handing out headbands like the one he wears during games. He also speaks to the children -- many of whom have followed him since his time at the University of Connecticut -- about how he has dealt with the disease. Seeing his success and positive attitude has a lasting and profound impact on many of the kids and their families.

Earlier this year, Villanueva established the Charlie’s Angels ticket program where he provides game experiences for children. On Feb. 8, more than thirty fifth-grade students from John D. Baker Public School’s first boys and girls basketball teams, attended pregame shoot-around, were given a Charlie’s Angels t-shirt, participated in a meet and greet and watched Villanueva and the Raptors battle the NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs in an overtime thriller. The program will continue through the season and will be welcoming families affected by Alopecia in the Greater Toronto Area.

Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune skin disease resulting in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. The disease is common, affecting 1.7 percent of the population overall and 5 million people in the United States alone. Alopecia Areata occurs in males and females of all ages and races and most often begins in childhood. Although not life-threatening, Alopecia Areata is life-altering for those afflicted with the disease as it can affect self-esteem and self-image, and its sudden onset, recurrent episodes, and unpredictable course have a profound psychological impact on the lives of those disrupted by this disease.

“Most of my life growing up was a constant struggle. I was either teased because of my looks or faced with the everyday negative surroundings in the neighborhood I grew up in. But yet I’m here now, not because of my talent, but because I believed in myself,” said Villanueva. “Being able to bring a smile to a child’s face and show them that those with Alopecia can succeed, brings joy to my life. The fact that I can bring something positive into these kids’ lives gives them the opportunity to look forward to a better tomorrow and that means the world to me.”

Throughout the season Villanueva has also been actively involved in the Raptor’s community and charitable efforts. Since October Charlie has participated in three Read to Achieve visits, including a surprise visit to a primary school, and a private screening of the movie “Glory Road” with a local high school, where he spoke about the importance of education and staying in school. He also participated in a Black History Month visit to the Raptors Locker Room with a local middle school class and author. In support of the Raptors Foundation, he participated in the annual Tip Off Dinner as a waiter to guests, visited children at the Hospital for Sick Kids and bowled with teams at the KingPin Bowling Challenge.

As the recipient of the NBA Community Assist Award, Villanueva will receive the David Robinson Plaque with the inscription, “Following the standard set by NBA Legend David Robinson who improved the community piece by piece.” In addition to the plaque, a $5,000 gift will be given to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation in his honor.

The league presents the NBA Community Assist Award monthly to recognize players for their charitable efforts. The award honors the NBA player who reflects the passion the league and its players have for their communities.

NBA Cares is the league's global community outreach initiative that builds on the NBA's long tradition of addressing important social issues. Over the next five years, the league, players and teams will raise and contribute $100 million for charity, donate more than 1 million hours of hands-on volunteer service to communities around the world, and build more than 100 places where kids can learn and play. NBA Cares will work with internationally-recognized youth-serving programs that support education, youth and family development, and health-related causes including: UNICEF; Reading Is Fundamental; Boys and Girls Clubs of America; Charities Aid Foundation; American/International Red Cross; Feed the Children, and many others.