The college blogs of SB Nation have teamed up with Buick's "Human Highlight Reel" program to recognize alumni who have gone on to make an impact in their communities. We've chosen to recognize former UConn forward Charlie Villanueva.
When he was growing up, former UConn forward Charlie Villanueva was diagnosed with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss on the scalp and other areas of the body. The disease isn't life threatening, but losing all your hair, especially as a kid, can be tough to go through. The disease led to some problems for Villanueva as he was growing up -- he was picked on and teased, but he channeled his frustration into basketball.
His basketball skill (plus, you know, being 6'11") lead him to UConn where as a freshman he was a part of the 2004 national championship team and averaged 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game as a starter in his sophomore year. Following that season he was picked 7th in the NBA draft.
His basketball success made him extremely visible and gave him a platform to influence the community, a platform he used to reach out and help kids suffering from alopecia areata.
In his rookie year in the NBA he partnered with the National Alopecia Areata Foundation to create "Charlie's Angels," a program that gives kids with alopecia areata a chance to meet with Villanueva before his games. Villanueva runs through some basketball drills with the kids before talking with them, posing for pictures and signing autographs. It gives him a chance to be a role model for kids in a unique situation. Here's his take on the program (from the ESPN piece linked above):
"I never had anyone to look up to, so I'm trying to give these kids hope," Villanueva says. "If I can play in front of thousands of people with this disease, it shows kids that you don't have to hide."
It seems like a fantastic program (sadly it's on hold at the moment because of the lockout) and for his work with it Charlie Villanueva is UConn's Human Highlight Reel.
To see the rest of the Buick Human Highlight Reel, and even share a story of your own, go to ncaa.com/buick. This post is sponsored by Buick.