Grafton resident’s GloBall project puts donated game equipment in hands of needy children around the world
Basketballs, soccer equipment, baseball gloves and uniforms by the dozens are piling up in a Port Washington office, waiting to be shipped to impoverished children around the world.
The collection of sporting goods is for GloBall Giving, a nonprofit organization founded by 42-year-old Mark Rolison of Grafton.
“I love to travel and I love sports. I’ve played sports all my life, so I just combined the two,” Rolison said.
Rolison said the inspiration for GloBall came to him during a trip to Kenya with Habitat for Humanity in March 2011. Volunteers took three soccer balls to a school that had 250 students and no sports equipment.
“It really did touch my heart when you realized how happy these kids were with just three simple soccer balls,” Rolison said.
“They didn’t expect anything. They didn’t say, ‘Why only three?’ It was the pure, simple joy of something that we take for granted.”
After returning from that trip, Rolison — who owns Frontier Medical Products in Port Washington — launched GloBall Giving.
The organization focuses on collecting items for three sports that are practically universal: soccer, basketball and baseball.
Rolison notes the donations not only help children around the world, but make a difference locally as well.
“On one level, we’re helping children that would have no opportunity to play. Secondly, we’re helping on a local level with recycling,” he said.
“All these uniforms, balls and shoes would end up in landfills, and now we have a home for them.”
Ten donation barrels are located throughout southeastern Wisconsin.
A donation barrel at the Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA in Saukville has surprised Rolison in particular. It tends to go from empty to full in a short time.
“You never know what’s coming,” he said.
Rolison said about half the items he has collected are new, while the others are gently used.
The Wisconsin Youth Soccer Association recently donated 1,000 uniforms. A coach from Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon dropped off a large bag of baseball bats.
In the short time it has been active, GloBall has donated nearly 160 pounds of sports equipment to two schools in Guatemala.
A third donation of soccer balls, cleats, uniforms and shin guards will soon be sent to a religious organization in Brazil that sponsors a soccer camp for 60 homeless children.
“They set up the soccer camp to keep them from either selling drugs or doing drugs,” Rolison said.
Besides giving children a positive outlet in places where they might not otherwise have one, Rolison said the sports equipment provides a great way for them to stay fit.
“Not only are we allowing an opportunity for the kids to play, but they’re also going to be living a healthier lifestyle,” he said.
Rolison said there is no shortage of opportunities for volunteers to help by picking up donations, separating and organizing equipment, advertising and writing grants.
“There’s tons of opportunities, so anyone that would like to get involved can. We can find something for them to do with their talent,” Rolison said.
Money that is donated to GloBall helps pay for everything from shipping costs to printing materials.
Eventually, Rolison would like to work with someone who knows how to expand nonprofit organizations. He hopes someday GloBall could become a nationwide effort.
Rolison played baseball and basketball in high school and college and has two daughters, ages 9 and 7, who participate in activities that include basketball, softball, soccer, dance and gymnastics.
Knowing the happiness that sports can bring to kids is the best part of GloBall’s mission for Rolison.
“I think it’s the pure joy that we bring kids that wouldn’t otherwise have that opportunity,” he said.
Sports equipment can be dropped off at the Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA, 465 Northwoods Rd., Saukville, and at Frontier Medical Products, 140 South Park St., Port Washington.
For volunteer information, call Rolison at (414) 745-8543.
Image Information: STANDING NEXT TO a collection barrel, GloBall Giving founder Mark Rolison held a basketball that was donated along with other sporting goods. Since being launched last fall, GloBall has distributed nearly 160 pounds of athletic equipment to impoverished children around the world. Photo by Sam Arendt