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The Power of Play

January 16, 2018

“We’re doing something that nobody’s done before,” says Lisa Tarver, co-founder and chief impact officer of One World Play Project, which donates one of their non-deflating, virtually indestructible soccer balls for each one purchased.

She’s referring to the proprietary manufacturing process behind these balls, which uses an EVA-based closed-cell foam (the same category of material Crocs clogs are made of, Tarver notes). “As it wears, it’s the same underneath. It doesn’t need a pump and it will just keep on playing,” she says.

But it’s a bigger insight – the power of play, especially in aiding children facing hardship – that inspired Tarver and her husband, Tim Jahnigen, to found One World Play Project in 2010.

“One of the most basic things that will help provide an escape and healing is the opportunity to play,” Tarver says. “Play also builds community — toss a ball in the mix and they don’t even have to speak the same language. Sport is a universal language.”

After seeing a documentary about the incredible resilience of refugee children in Darfur playing soccer with a homemade soccer ball, Tarver and Jahnigen became evangelists of sorts for the power of play.

“[Soccer] is the global sport and it’s also one where there’s not a lot of equipment needed besides a ball. Kids will play with anything,” Tarver says. “They’ll kick around a soda bottle, a rock — and often, that’s kicking it around playing soccer.”

Today, Tarver says One World Play Project partners with a wide variety of organizations around the world working with disenfranchised or marginalized populations, in addition to refugee aid groups, from gang-prevention efforts in America’s inner-cities to literacy programs in Haiti, to athletes participating in the Special Olympics.

“We wanted to work with programs that were already on the ground because there are a lot of fabulous programs that are under-resourced,” Tarver says.

That higher-level philosophy of giving back has fueled the company’s growth. Tarver says that in addition to the Buy One Give One (BOGO) soccer ball donations, the One World Play Project is a certified B Corporation, they donate a portion of their profits, and they work with corporate sponsorship programs to increase the reach of their donation efforts.

“It can be a challenging financial model because there’s the cost of producing two balls in every sale. We sell at a higher price point,” Tarver says, but One World Play Project’s dedication is as tough as its equipment: “In terms of Buy One Give One, our mission is not expendable.” After all, as Tarver says, “We’re a business, but we’re all about the mission.”