The last few months have presented serious personal challenges to many, many people, but within socially sensitive layers of the community the negative psychological effects have been felt harder than anywhere.
The participants of the Zalgiris Kaunas One Team project are no exception, and with that in mind, the club is making a special effort to support the Special Olympics Lithuania members who have benefitted from Euroleague Basketball's social responsibility program over the last few years.
Understanding the need for social interaction, teamwork and physical activity, Zalgiris renewed the project's activities as soon as it became possible in September, after having been forced to halt the program in March.
Project Manager Akvile Dagilyte explained why the club was so determined make a quick restart with its One Team activities, saying: "It's very important for these youths to be physically active, to have something to do. Otherwise, they close in on themselves, stop improving and risk going in the wrong direction. Due to the quarantine, all their informal education activities were stopped and many of them were never brought back.
"It was really nice to see the eagerness of the kids when they came back to the sessions, and how refreshing those activities were for them. We're glad that we were able to close out the program before additional safety measures kicked in."
Showing that a commitment to One Team runs throughout Zalgiris, star players Nigel Hayes and Arturas Milaknis – the club's 2019-20 season One Team Ambassadors – came along to join in the final session. They joined Zalgiris physical preparation coach Sigitas Kavaliauskas to play games with the kids and hand out diplomas.
Extra safety precautions were taken throughout the autumn's activities, with the program ending before the participants' holidays, when informal education was restricted. If the new restrictions are in place for a long time, the club is looking to see how its One Team activities can be transferred online to ensure the local community is still included in sports activities.
Ramirent, who partnered with Zalgiris in 2017, has continued working hand in hand on the One Team project during the pandemic, while the club's program is mutually financed by the sports support fund (administered by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports), the education exchange support fund, and the central project management agency. This valuable funding allows the club to offer a much greater variety of activities to the participants.
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 22,000 participants through its various team-focused projects.