The organizers: Ethan and Cooper Waisberg
The pitch: Creating Balls 4 Eyeballs
Cooper Waisberg and his brother Ethan have been lifelong tennis players but they’ve always had a problem with the number of balls that are routinely discarded.
“We’ve noticed that a lot of tennis players open a can of balls and play with them for an hour or two before throwing them away,” said Cooper, 19, a student at York University. “These balls take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills.”
More than 300 million tennis balls are manufactured globally every year and major tournaments such as the U.S. Open, which ends on Sunday, can go through as many as 70,000 balls during the two-week event. While some used balls are resold, most are simply thrown away.
The brothers, who are from Toronto, wanted to try to address the problem while also raising money for charity. They’ve launched Balls 4 Eyeballs with the goal of collecting as many used tennis balls as possible and reselling them online. Proceeds will go to a group of charities connected to eye care, in honour of their grandmother who was diagnosed with glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, a diabetes-related complication that affects the eyes. The charities they plan to support include Fighting Blindness Canada, Orbis Canada and Medical Ministry International.
“Based on my experience with research in the U.K. and the U.S., eye research in Canada is comparatively underfunded and we wanted to do something to change that,” added Ethan, 20, who is completing his medical degree in Ireland and has been involved with research projects in London.
The pair have collected around 30,000 balls so far from tennis clubs around Toronto and they’ve been contacted by a range of potential buyers. “We’ve had responses from cricket players, baseball players, pet owners, even a school that wanted to put balls on the bottom of chairs,” Cooper said.
They hope to take the project national and work with clubs and universities across the country.
“We’re really proud of the progress that we’ve made,” Cooper said. “Our main priority right now is getting volunteers across Ontario. We can’t do this all ourselves.”
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