It’s been a fun few weeks for all of us—trying to stream World Cup action at odd hours on our laptops (or, secretly at work), feeling jubilant as the US team moved ahead, and while sad when the momentum ended, excited about cheering on our new favorite teams from countries around the world. I especially enjoyed hearing friends and colleagues talk knowingly, and enthusiastically, about players and teams, even those they had never followed before. We all became soccer aficionados and true fans, even if just for the summer.

265 million people play soccer across the globe. In the US, we have the largest number of youth soccer participants in the world with 20 million young people playing the sport. It’s easy to understand why soccer is such an appealing team sport, especially for young people. It’s fun, straightforward and anyone can play. It doesn’t matter if you’re a tall girl or a short boy, or if you have super speed or power. You can play at the beach or in a park, and you don’t even need much equipment. One thing that is required, however, is a ball. And while that might seem like a simple statement for many children in developing nations, a real soccer ball is a rare thing indeed. That’s what 14 year-old Ethan King discovered when traveling with his Dad to Mozambique in 2009. While his Dad worked, Ethan played soccer with local kids from the village. When he left, he gave them his soccer ball and launched Charity Ball without even knowing it. He came home to America with an appreciation for all that he had and all that he could do for other kids. Since 2010, when Ethan officially helped to found the organization, Charity Ball has given away 4,000 new, quality soccer balls to kids in Haiti, Guatemala, India, Zambia, South Africa, Cameroon and other nations in Africa. At Sappi, we began our support of Charity Ball through the North American Ideas that Matter grant program by funding a short documentary produced by the design firm, Dress Code. And, as we grew to know more about the organization and its mission, we continued our work with Dress Code as they created a beautiful printed piece that shares the Charity Ball story. It’s been inspiring to learn how the simple concept of Charity Ball not only delivers a “tool” used to play soccer but also helps foster connections, community, friendship and understanding amongst the players and the fans in many nations. This year’s Ideas that Matter grant applications are being submitted, now, to meet our July 18 application deadline with judging just one month away. I can’t wait to see what projects are part of this year’s program. And with the World Cup in mind I expect to be further inspired by great ideas that kick that creative spark down the field and into the net. Score—for designers and their great ideas! Does that make sense? Order your own copy of Charity Ball here. See the Charity Ball video here. Learn more about past winners of Ideas that Matter here.

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