ICEHEARTS in a nuttshell


Icehearts was established in 1996 in Vantaa, Finland. Icehearts uses team sports as a tool for engaging children with social work. The model provides consistent long-term support for vulnerable children at a time where children with special needs, and their families are often met by numerous professionals. Each team is led by a mentor who supports the selected children at school, after school and at home for 12 years.

Children who require special support and who have been recognised as being at risk of social exclusion early on are selected to a team. Children are selected in co-operation with pre-school, school and social service professionals. The child´s caregivers ultimately decide if the child will participate in the team activities and accept the support offered.

Icehearts prevents social exclusion, enhances social skills and promotes the well-being of vulnerable children.

Icehearts in schools

The mentor of the team supports the children in their studies. The capacity in which the mentor is involved is negotiated locally with school officials. The mentor can participate in class as an assistant or teachs children individually or in small groups according to the directions of the teacher. Mentor is an extra adult resource for the school and with his/her presence supports and stabilises class and school activities.

After school the mentor helps the children of the team to do their homework and organises afternoon activities.  During the afternoon the players of the team spend time together, practise and play together and have excursions with their mentor.

The mentor introduces older players of the team to various educational paths and career opportunities.

Team sport

Players of the team are selected step by step at the age of 6 to 12. The chosen team sport is selected in collaboration with the mentor and the children. Different sports are tested in a wide range depending on the local opportunities.

Teams practice after school and participate in normal games and tournaments of the local amateur series. Icehearts gladly co-operates with local sport teams and organises friendly games and tournaments.

As part of team activities, summer and winter camps are organised. At these events, in addition to practising the teams chosen sport, the children practice how to work together and how to do daily chores.

Social work

The mentor helps the children of his/her team and their families by supporting them in problems arising in everyday life. The mentor takes part in meetings concerning the well being of the child when necessary. The mentor works closely with social, health and educational services.

Significant tool for doing social work is team sports. Children with special needs are easily left outside of teams and healthy friendships where usually the social rules of conduct with peers are learnt.

The mentor provides the children of the team and their families comprehensive and long-term support whenever and where-ever needed.

  • The annual budget of a team is approximately €50,000

  • Administrative costs are funded by STEA, Funding Centre for Social Welfare and Health Organisations

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Icehearts in a nutshell

Icehearts’ operating model was established in 1996 in Vantaa, Finland. The Icehearts operating model is an innovative early intervention operating model focusing on boys. It provides long-term professional support for children who are particularly at risk. Each team selected by experts functions for 12 years. The team is supervised by an educator with professional qualification.

Children who have been recognised as being at risk of social exclusion early on and who require special support in their growth are selected for the team. In addition, children who, for some reason, would not have the opportunity to otherwise participate in leisure activities are chosen for the team. A typical Icehearts child is a boy from an immigrant, single parent or large family, and whose resources for providing leisure activities are limited. Long-term activities provide comprehensive assistance for children needing special support, which makes the rehabilitation prognosis good.

Icehearts in a nutshell

Management team and board

Management and board

Icehearts of Finland, management team:

Teemu Vartiamäki, Managing Director
Ville Turkka, Founder, Leading Expert
Miika Niemelä
, Head of Training
Vellu Kilpala, Team Coordinator (Lear)
Erika Turunen, Head of Organisation

Icehearts of Finland, the board:

Aki Riihilahti, chairman
Mikko Mäkelä, vice-chairman
Pirta Karlsson
Heikki Turkka
Jukka Marttala
Sirpa Tuomi
Sari Paljakka
Niina Hyvärinen