For the last six seasons, Jonas Valanciunas has been a towering presence on the court for the Toronto Raptors. On the hardwood, his seven-foot-tall stature is imposing to his opponents, but away from the court, the man has a heart of gold.
News of this somehow slipped under the radar, but last month, the Raptors’ centre travelled back to his homeland to help open a day centre for at-risk youth. It’s called “Išvien”, which translates to “together,” the first of its kind for teens in Lithuania.
According to Delfi: The Lithuanian Tribune, the centre will assist up to 12 youth at a time. Inside the centre, they’ll receive meals and counselling, all funded by Valanciunas. Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė was on-hand for the opening ceremonies back on August 28th.
“Through sports, discipline, and hard work that sports needs, [Valanciunas] will help children to feel needed and find a second home,” Grybauskaitė told Delfi during the centre’s official ribbon-cutting.
Off the court, Valanciunas is an official “For a Safe Luthiania” campaign ambassador. By opening this youth centre, he’s making a big difference back in his home country.
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Šypsenos mūsų veiduose ir džiaugsmas širdyse❤️Dalinamės dar keliomis akimirkomis iš paauglių dienos namų "Išvien" atidarymo. Tariam didelį AČIŪ visiems, kurie buvote, esate ir būsite kartu su mumis. Nuotraukos: Josvydas Elinskas @15minlt #pasitikek #dirbtbetraumu #maziauchuliganavot #prezidentė #happy #teens #basketballplayers #dreamscometrue #smile #open #secondhome
The longest-tenured Raptor will likely get relegated to a bench role this year, but he’ll suit up for the team’s season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday at Scotiabank Arena.
Jonas Valanciunas opened Children Day Care Centre for children from social risk families and problematical situations today in Vilnius. President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite came to the event & praised JV for doing good things for the country and community. Photo: J.Elinskas pic.twitter.com/fe1kxNgCn4
— Donatas Urbonas (@Urbodo) August 28, 2018