Ever since its beginning in 2021, the “Inclusion through sport for children with developmental disabilities” project funded by the EEA and Norway Grant has supported six Special Olympics programmes and their lead partner Fundatia Motivation Romania in bringing new sports opportunity for children with intellectual disabilities all over Europe.
From the first year, Special Olympics Lithuania implemented the project, focusing on basketball and football and bringing 12 local organizations in support of the project.. Over the past three years, planned activities involving Special Olympics athletes, their families and Unified Partners were carried out to celebrate inclusion and to raise awareness for the people with intellectual disabilities.
But most importantly, this project changed the life of Inga, a 9 years old girl and Special Olympics Lithuania Young Athletes who has been part of the project since the very beginning.
Inga has cerebral palsy and finds it very hard to control the left side of her body. Before the start of this project, Inga had difficulties practising physical activities and daily works left her in pain, emotional confusion, and anger. Amid all her struggles, the girl always expressed that she wanted to be the same as other kids and to play with them as equals and only when Inga started to train regularly two times a week, she finally started to feel better.
Her family and all people around her could see the positive change in her behavior, and how her skills and mental health improved.
“Being her coach was not easy at first. but we learned to work together though the challenges, to be friends and with the help of all family training sessions gave lot of good practice for all of us” says lead coach Regina.
“I want to thank everyone for the opportunity to participate in this wonderful project,” added Inga’s mother, Viktorija.“Being part of this project helped both my daughter and me, as her mother, to see the world through a different lens: sport brought her joy and helped her feel included.”
Project activities in Lithuania are centered around regular training sessions, sport events and Family health forums. All activities are open to the public. Everyone is welcome to join as participants, volunteers, partners or observers.
One of our last events took place in the city of Klaipeda and was supported by the local football school. Unified partners played together with all participants, and it was yet another very special occasion for Inga:
“My daughter felt very special, she did not have even a second to feel anything else,” continued Inga’s mother. “The event was full of joy, and kind, supportive people who helped the participants overcome all tasks and try all activities.
“Our trip from the capital to the event took more than 3 hours. This kind of long journey are usually difficult for Inga to handle, but she was so excited this time around, that it was as if she did not even realise we were travelling.
“During the event, one of the partners helped my daughter and told her something that stuck with the both of us: “You can make it, you can pass this task, because we will make it together”.
She keeps all her medals gained during this project in her room, and every time we look at them now, they remind us of how much we can make together.”