The story of Ivan, a young participant with Khimki Moscow Region's One Team program over the last few months, is a great example of exactly how Euroleague Basketball's social responsibility program is using the power of basketball to change lives all over the continent.
Ivan, 15, has been in the care of the Vera Children's Center for the mentally disabled in Khimki since the age of 12, attending the center each week.
Ivan has been a devoted participant in Khimki's One Team program in association with the Children's Center, joining the full course of 15 sessions, which were specifically designed to meet the needs of mentally disabled children.
Due to his disability, Ivan has always found it difficult to make friends, which meant that he had a sense of rejection from his "normal" peers. He was isolated and lacked concentration.
Initially he was reluctant to join the One Team sessions because they were new and unfamiliar, but he was made to feel more comfortable by the presence of his sister and his mother. And before long, he was able to participate in the sessions by himself, without any family members present.
Over the course of the program, Ivan significantly improved his communication skills, becoming able to engage with people outside of his usual social circle, which marked a major breakthrough in his social integration.
And after the final session, Ivan's mother reported that he had become calmer and more confident both at home and at school in his daily interactions with his peers. He also improved his performance at school, and has expressed an interest in joining more sporting activities in the future.
Khimki's One Team Manager Anna Sidneva said: "It has been wonderful to see how Ivan has developed during the time that he spent in our program, and his story makes all our work worthwhile.
"We know that every EuroLeague and EuroCup club has similar cases to Ivan, and I am very proud that clubs all over Europe are making a genuine difference to the lives of vulnerable people through our work with One Team. We are already planning next season's activities and we look forward to continuing to support our community."
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 16,000 participants through its various team-focused projects.