Zalgiris Kaunas successfully finished the first phase of this season's One Team program earlier this season. The club has been working with a group of young people connected to Special Olympics, an organization that helps people who have learning disabilities.
Many of the participants also face problems at home, since a lot of them are growing up in socially disadvantaged families. Some are already enjoying growing up with foster parents, able to dream of higher goals in life after escaping their previous environments.
Zalgiris organized the program's activities related to numerous different topics – such as tolerance, teamwork, communication, goal-setting, emotional management and leadership – but every participant is also encouraged to find the most important aspect for them at this stage of their lives.
One participant, Dainius, tried not to miss any activities, and participated in each one of them with a wide smile – especially when he was given the opportunity to sit on the Zalgiris bench for the home game against Valencia Basket, which came during the One Team Games in Round 13.
The program's coordinator, Zalgiris communications director Akvile Dagilyte, has been hugely impressed by the changes she noticed in Dainius during the program, saying: "During his first session, Dainius didn't say a single word, even though the activity was about meeting others and getting over the fear of talking to strangers. He told us that he's shy of talking to strangers and doesn't want to do that.
"But in the following activities, Dainius not only started talking more, but he became difficult to stop! He participated everywhere. You need someone to ask a question to Zalgiris players? He's got a full page of them. You need someone to run the game? He'll be the volunteer. Speaking to cameras? No problem. Seeing a change like this is absolute happiness. And this is just one example."
A questionnaire completed by the participants also revealed that they enjoy One Team not only because they like basketball, but also that they feel good during the sessions, learn new things, work in a team, and have the chance to talk about important topics. After the project, 87% of them noted that see basketball players as role models, 73% said the program helped them set goals in life, and 93% said they learned something new.
Zalgiris Kaunas has been a part of the One Team program for seven years now, and for the third year in a row, socially responsible company Ramirent has been a key contributor.
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 19,000 participants through its various team-focused projects.