Family guy

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

It really hit Dora Mejia when she entered the Air Canada Centre for the first time last night.

Her son, Charlie Villanueva, is an NBAer and her life will never be the same.

"I feel real proud and real happy," the friendly Spanish-speaking woman said through a translator, her son Rob. "It's an honour that Toronto selected him at No. 7. I'm living the life (she dreamed about) and I'm very proud about it."

A Dominican immigrant who worked as custodian to pay the bills for her children, Mejia's world turned upside down last November in New York (where she moved as a teenager) when she was hit by a truck that hopped a curb at a bus stop after the driver had suffered a heart attack. Mejia shattered her elbow and around that time, Villanueva decided he was ready to leave college and turn pro for the next season, in part to make sure his mom never had to take public transportation again.

Well, Villanueva was the Raptors' first pick this past summer. Last month, Villanueva purchased a house for his mother in a nice part of Queens, moving her out of a hard-scrabble Brooklyn neighbourhood. At her new house, everything she needs is within walking distance.

"I feel a lot more complete and I'm almost fully recovered," said Mejia, who doesn't quite have full range of motion. "Charlie has made this change for me and it's like a complete change in my life. I feel really honoured and blessed."

Mejia attended the game last night with Charlie's father, Roberto, his brother Rob, his sister Genesis and two cousins.

"It's a dream that is still going," Mejia said. "It's a dream that is now becoming reality."

Mejia heard the criticisms of Villanueva after the Raptors surprised many by selecting him seventh overall. The comments went in one ear and out the other.

"There are guys that criticize for a living so that's part of the game," she said. "Charlie deserves what he got because he worked hard for it."


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