One Team and Special Olympics, changing lives: Mauro's story

Nov 27, 2013 by Print
One Team and Special Olympics, changing lives: Mauro's story
Mauro Di GirolamoFor the second week in a row, all Turkish Airlines Euroleague games during regular season Round 7 will be dedicated to One Team in support of its proud partner, Special Olympics, to forward their shared goal of integrating marginalized groups across Europe into their communities.

The Euroleague's two-week effort to shine the spotlight on Special Olympics athletes leads to a key event on their calendar, the 2013 Special Olympics European Basketball Week, which lasts from Saturday, November 30 through Sunday, December 8.

"The support given by Euroleague clubs and players to One Team and Special Olympics helps raise awareness of efforts to empower people with intellectual disabilities to live full lives in their communities. At the same time, it educates the broader public as to the vitality and talents of intellectually disabled men and women among us." Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Euroleague Basketball and One Team Programme Director Isabel Gultresa said.

One such vital and talented athlete is Mauro, who is celebrating 10 years of playing basketball with Special Olympics in Italy. In that decade, his brother has seen Mauro blossom like never before, a testimony to the power of sport to positively change lives.

Read their heartwarming story below and learn more about 2013 Special Olympics European Basketball Week!

Basketball made me proud of my brother Mauro


My name is Marco and I have a brother who is different. His name is Mauro and he has Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by having an extra chromosome. It’s not contagious and you don’t suffer from Down syndrome. It’s just part of who you are.

I always knew that being born with a disability may make life more challenging for Mauro. So as his brother I took it as my role to protect and help him.

But when Mauro joined Special Olympics in September 2003 it began an exciting and transformational journey not only for him but for me also – one that would change our relationship forever.

Special Olympics uses the power of sport to create a world in which people with intellectual disabilities like my brother Mauro, can lead healthy, full lives grounded in sport, good health and the determination to demonstrate their personal best to themselves and their communities.

Before joining Special Olympics, Mauro liked swimming but he always trained on his own. He never had a chance to make friends with other swimmers. But at Special Olympics he began training in team sports. Basketball instantly became his passion.

Through basketball he began to work in a team and he soon understood the meaning of ‘team spirit’. He realized that everyone must work together to reach the basket and win the match. He learnt that others in the team depend on him giving his very best.

He soon began to make friends both on and off the court. Suddenly his social life became even better than mine! He was meeting friends for the cinema, shopping, lunch.

Watching Mauro play basketball had a huge impact on me. Seeing how well my brother played and how committed he was to the game made me appreciate his many talents and skills that had previously been hidden from me. I was stunned by his ability and by the spirit of cooperation and solidarity amongst his team mates.

My pride in him swelled when Mauro competed in the Special Olympics Italy National Games in 2011 in La Spezia. His team did really well and he won lots of medals. I never saw him so happy, content and oozing in self-confidence.

It was the same for my mother and the whole family. Having a child with special needs can sometimes be hard, but sometimes it can be joyful. This was one of those times.

Special Olympics has also helped changed attitudes at Mauro’s college. When Mauro appeared in a publicity poster for the National Games his schools mates realized that he was good at basketball. They began to see beyond his disability and invite him to train and play with them.

Special Olympics Games give us all an opportunity to learn that people with special needs are not beings that walk around suffering from an illness, but talented beings that learn and do things differently. At the National Games we celebrate difference.

I don’t think Mauro can imagine his life without Special Olympics and I see him being involved for many years to come. He eats, lives and breathes basketball and is always hungry to learn more and train harder. Maybe Mauro will even be a basketball coach someday. That would be really great!

To learn more about how Special Olympics is transforming lives through sport visit