Basketball-crazy youngsters from Vilnius were given a unique chance to see behind the scenes on a game day thanks to their involvement in Lietuvos Rytas's One Team project.
The team based in the Lithuanian capital is participating in One Team, Euroleague Basketball's social responsibility program, for the fifth consecutive season and opened its doors to a group of children for last week's 7DAYS EuroCup home game against Limoges CSP.
The event was planned by Lietuvos Rytas's One Team Project Manager, Arminas Vareika, who welcomed the group into the Siemens Arena, with the highlight of the night coming at the end of the first quarter, when the young sports enthusiasts were invited to the middle of the court, receiving a big ovation from fans.
Throughout the season, the club will be working with Special Olympics and local social center Veliucioniai, with the aim of giving teenagers the opportunity to develop and improve skills which will be useful not only on the basketball court but also in normal life situations.
"After successful One Team projects in the past, this season we are expanding our work," explained Vareika. "The main goal of the year is to provide children with an opportunity to feel the power of professional basketball and teach them necessary social skills, such as the prevention of smoking, alcoholism and other substances, along with the importance of courage and resolve.
"We are also extremely happy that our players Martynas Echodas, Jimmy Baron and Loukas Mavrokefalidis, as well as the club's vice president Linas Kleiza, have all agreed to become One Team Ambassadors. They will regularly visit the young players and provide them with valuable life lessons."
The mother of one participant, Diana Meskeleviciene, enthused about the excitement that the children felt, saying: "We are truly fascinated and motivated. We are very happy and on behalf of the parents we would like to thank the organizers.
"Messages about ideals and social skills have a great amount of impact, and we can see the changes through participation. There can be problems in many areas, such as attendance of post-school activities or appearance, but One Team is helping a happy integration with society."
One Team, supported by Turkish Airlines as the One Team Founding Patron and with the collaboration of Special Olympics as Proud Partner, uses basketball to achieve meaningful social impact in our communities across Europe and is supported by every club in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and 7DAYS EuroCup.
Since its founding in 2012, the One Team program has already helped more than 14,000 participants through its various team-focused projects.