After last season saw Zalgiris Kaunas's One Team activities limited to online meetings, the program of activities has finally returned to Zalgirio Arena, as the club continues its commitment and partnership with the Special Olympics Lithuania organization that unites people with learning disabilities.
The project's guidelines are set for all clubs by Euroleague Basketball, with its structure ensuring effective results across the continent. Clubs select one group from the local community and work with them over several weeks or months with regular meetings.
Zalgiris's project coordinator Akvile Dagilyte noted: "This program isn't just a one-off campaign. It's consistent work with a selected group. We purposefully work to make it easier for people with disabilities to integrate into society. We teach them communication, teamwork, stress management, concentration skills through the game of basketball. This way, the participants both learn something useful and have fun."
The opportunity to gather together in live meetings in Zalgiris's practice facility also gives additional joy and motivation to the participants.
The plan for the program is prepared by the employees of the Zalgiris organization, who have gained a lot of experience during 8 years of the club's involvement with One Team. Obviously, visits from Zalgiris players garner the most attention – this season's One Team Ambassadors for the club are Niels Giffey and Marek Blazevic, who made a visit to the first activity.
Giffey said: "Together with the youngsters we played games and relays. It's fun to give them extra attention, to bring joy, and most importantly to see smiles on their faces. I'm happy that I was invited to become an ambassador for the program – it's nice to help uplift the local community."
To vary the program, other guests are invited, including Kauno Zalgiris footballers, movement ‘630' representative Mindaugas Satkus and sports psychologist Aiste Zemaityte.
For the fourth consecutive year, Zalgiris's partner Ramirent Lietuva has been helping carry out the program, with its employees also taking part in the project itself. The partners order hundreds of One Team shirts that are eagerly worn by their employees. This not only connects them to the project, but also helps the dissemination of the project.
Each year partners are given the opportunity to participate in one of the final activities and take part in a form of examination led by the project's participants, showcasing what leadership, public speaking and teamwork skills they have learned along the way.
Zalgiris has been working with One Team since 2013, and won the One Team Annual Bronze Award in 2021 for the previous season's activities.
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 real social impact in our communities.
With an innovative model of interconnectedness across an entire continent, Euroleague Basketball and its clubs have developed a complete CSR program that brings together activities from each team in an integrated, impactful way, working under the theme of ‘community integration' that actively addresses targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 10 on Reduced Inequalities.
Each participating club develops a specific One Team project tailored to its own community needs to benefit groups in danger of exclusion due to problems such as substance abuse and gender, physical or intellectual disability. Since its founding in 2012, the One Team program has already reached, directly and indirectly, more than 23,000 participants through its various team projects.