The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.



From educational tools and events to promotional programs and public policy initiatives, IHRSA brings you success... by association!

Join | Renew
Pledge Your Support


Autistic, hyperactive children benefit from club's recycling of squash balls

Used squash balls are being used for a 'calming blanket'.There is nothing better than when an idea goes way beyond your expectations. That was the case for Anna Rounaja, owner of Liikuntakeskus Hukka in Oulu, Finland, on many levels.

Rounaja was looking to recycle old squash balls from her club and by using social media, ideas from her members and help from the community, the idea that she ended up going with will aid families that have hyperactive and autistic children.

“It makes you feel good that you were part of something that helps those who are in need,” she said during a phone interview. “Yeah, the (entire process) was a great thing for the club and the community.”

The story started when Rounaja was trying to figure out how to best reuse the squash balls. The worn balls were put in a basket near the courts and when she would walk past them she tried to think of the best way for their second purpose. Unable to come up with what she felt was an adequate use she opted to put it in the hands of Liikuntakeskus Hukka members.

“One morning I decided to harness the power of crowd sourcing and posted a picture of these balls onto our Facebook page,” Rounaja explained. Crowd sourcing is finding ideas, services or content from contributions from a group of people, usually online, rather than employees.

Along with the photo Rounaja asked Facebook friends to send ideas for the new use of the hundreds of used squash balls. Suggestions like door stoppers and stress balls came in, but then a special needs teacher, who is a member, suggested a “ball blanket” that helps calm down autistic and hyperactive children. The ideas were put to a vote by liking the best idea on the Liikuntakeskus Hukka Facebook page. The winner would receive a gift card to the café at the club.

Used squash balls are collected in a basket near the courts.In one day the blanket idea got 70 likes, ten times more than the second-best idea. It only took one day for Rounaja to declare the winner. 

“The ball blanket is very useful and has positive results with kids,” Rounaja explained. “Kids have different feeling with their bodies. They don’t know the borders of own body – it is one of the reasons why they feel the world is overwhelming. The blankets adapt to the child’s body shape and calms them down, like they are being hugged. They can even be used as a cover blanket when going to sleep, too.”

She immediately went to a local business that she had used for refurbishing furniture and equipment at the club to see if it would like to take part in the good deed. Without hesitation they were in.

“They jumped at the idea, both for its great cause and the positive press it would bring (to them and the club),” Rounaja said.

The teacher, Rounaja and the company got together to design the blanket and it took a week to produce the blanket. Now Liikuntakeskus Hukka donates the balls to the blanket-maker who produces several per month for both schools and individuals. And, according to Rounaja, the price is $200, compared to other blankets that cost upwards of $900.

“For me the best thing was the very next day (after posting the picture of the school getting the new blanket) one of our members came to my office. She said she has been looking for one these blankets for her son. He uses them in therapy but she couldn’t find one (for home),” Rounaja said. The member said with a blanket at home it takes her son only 30 minutes to fall asleep instead of 90 minutes or more without one.

The finished product, a 'calming blanket'.In the end, it was an idea that started out small – a way to recycle something from her gym – and turned out to involve many people in her club and community while helping out so many in need.

“I wasn’t expecting something this great,” said Rounaja, who noted that the club has been awarded a recycling certification for the many projects it takes on. “I was testing the waters to see what came out. I am so happy the way it did. It opened my eyes and makes me feels so warm and fuzzy inside, maybe the same feeling the kids would get by using the blanket.”

This is not the first time the club has used crowd sourcing. Recently a member e-mailed the club and explained how he was too shy to approach female members. Liikuntakeskus Hukka went to its Facebook friends and the idea of a bracelet for singles was created. Not only was it extremely popular among members, but single people from around the country called and wanted to purchase some. Rounaja declined, explaining it was something for members only. "The point was that the specific location and users that know the meaning behind the bracelet would make the idea work as well as it did," she said. 

“I think social media is just great,” she said. “It is so interactive – you can communicate with people, share interesting pictures and stories, and keep members active. I get most excited when I see what everyone has to say. It is a great place to figure out problems and get new ideas.”





Reader Comments (1)

"Rounaja asked Facebook friends to send ideas for the new use of the hundreds of used squash balls.."

It may sound common thing, but i just want to give my ideas too. I have seen bench made by tennis ball, why not construct squash balls into a bench also. Maybe it can be constructed and turn into a comfortable relax chair to watch movies and browse smartphone (because it can adapt to body shape). Beside, if you hold the balls, because of that rubber material, i think it can be use as hi-hat cushion for electronic drum too. Just my personal opinion.
May 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAlger

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.