VLADIMIR RADMANOVIC: LENDING A HELPING HAND
Since coming to L.A., Vladimir Radmanovic has shot more than his fair share of three pointers, delighting the STAPLES Center crowd with each and every make. While most fans see a more serious side of Radmanovic on the floor, he is anything but off of it.
With a heart as large as his 6’10” frame, the forward has emerged as one of the NBA’s standout performers in the community, generating thousands of smiles across Southern California and hope for some of the region’s most needy children.
Helping underprivileged youth is something that hits close to home for the versatile shooter.
“Growing up in a country that was affected by the war and knowing that there were so many kids who lost a parent because of the war and the fighting over the past 10 years made me do it,” said Vladi, as he is affectionately called by fans. “I know that there are not only kids in Serbia, but also in the United States that need help.”
For many people, growing up during the heart of Yugoslavia’s breakup would result in them being jaded, bitter and in many cases, downright heartbroken. Radmanovic is neither of those things; instead, the three point shooting assassin has harnessed his difficult upbringing and used it as motivation to help those in need.
“It was something that I wasn’t really thinking too much about what I was going to do,” said Vladi. “It was kids—it was a no-brainer.”
As a child, Vladi’s family moved from home to home after his father was called into duty—a period in his life that forced Radmanovic to dig deep inside himself for strength. Although he had his mother’s shoulders to lean on and his sister to talk to throughout his youth, Radmanovic knows that not everyone is as fortunate.
“It’s a tough thing to even talk about,” said Vladi. “For me, kids are the most helpless people in the world and to see them without hope…that’s a tough thing to see. Hopefully, there’s a lot of people out there in the world that are willing to help, people like me that are willing to do something good for those kids.”
After experiencing success in the World Premiere Basketball League, Radmanovic hopped continents to play for the Seattle Supersonics. Almost immediately after walking onto the Key Arena court, Vladi began his community efforts off the court.
“When I was in Seattle, we did a couple of trick-or-treat events for UNICEF in the schools,” said Vladi. “I showed up at a couple of schools and those kids were so excited about it. The main goal was to have those kids go out and collect money for those that are less fortunate. The schools that I visited were the schools that collected the most money.”
Upon being traded to the Clippers in the spring of 2006, Radmanovic set out to immerse himself in the Los Angeles community, once again teaming with the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to help underprivileged children in the area.
“My family was helped by UNICEF on a couple of occasions and that’s how I got together with them,” said Vladi.
In order to reach the community more directly, he founded the Vladimir Radmanovic Children’s Foundation that helps orphans both in the U.S. and in Serbia.
“…Just the fact that there are so many kids out there that are not fortunate enough to have someone who is going to give them basic things in life—love, support and all those things that you need as a child when you’re growing up—made me start this foundation,” said Radmanovic. “I have a drive to help these kids as much as I can.”
Of his many community endeavors, the shooter says that the one-on-one contact with children in orphanages is among his favorite and most rewarding experiences.
“Sometimes just showing up at some place and being a part of it and having a chance to see how those kids are…I’ve had experiences with kids who are scared to look at you,” said Radmanovic. “They look at your body and they’re afraid to make eye contact. It’s frightening.”
“I was in Five Acres orphanage in L.A. and a couple of places at home and it was just a neat experience,” said Vladi. “Once you get out of there, you can’t just feel the same again. It’s just another motive and another drive to do something for those kids.”
While Vladi knows that he can’t be there for every child in need, he does his best to at least aid in the process.
“I have two little nephews and just seeing them grow up with all this love surrounding them, then you go to some place like that…it’s better than where they were before, but the goal is to find someone who can take care of those kids in the long term where they’re going to have somebody that’s going to be a mentor, somebody that’s going to give them life experience and just carry it over to them,” said Radmanovic.
According to the Lakers star, his goal is to one-day help people all over the world, beginning with the opening of a Laundromat back home to help young adults that exit the orphanage system at the age of 18.
“A lot of them don’t have a place to work, a place to stay, so this program that we’re going to start at the end of this year is going to help those kids that are coming out of orphanages to find a job, have a chance to earn some money so they can rent apartments so they can start a new life basically,” said Vladi. “The place is going to grow itself so hopefully there are going to be a lot more kids going through the program.”
Although Vladi wears the purple and gold, he believes that people of all colors and backgrounds are capable of helping those that are less fortunate.
“For them, I don’t even think it’s that important that you’re a Laker. I would like to encourage everybody just to go there one day and just hug those kids and talk to them—anybody,” said Radmanovic. “Anybody that I believe shows up over there will be more than welcome and will bring a smile to those kids’ faces.”
In Vladi’s two plus years in L.A, the city’s philanthropic spirit has already made a believer out of him.
“The few events I’ve organized, a lot of people have shown up and supported it,” said Radmanovic. “I think there are a lot of people in the L.A area that are willing to give away. As we know, this is one of the richest cities in the country and fortunately, all those people are willing to give back.”
As one of the city’s quietest, but most influential community leaders, repeatedly assuming a father-like role with underprivileged youth, “Vladi Daddy” has clearly earned his nickname and a permanent place in the hearts of children all over the world.