Mark Rolison’s mother always told him that in order to be happy, he should figure out what he liked to do and then go ahead and do it.
He currently has a meaningful profession he enjoys as owner of Frontier Medical Products in Port Washington. Charity has always been a part of his life as well, and giving back is important to him.
"I’ve always been involved in non-profits, I always thought it would be a good idea to start one," he said. "But I never put two and two together until I saw what happened in Kenya."
In February 2011, Rolison participated in a Habitat for Humanity trip that took him to Kenya. "We went to a school and donated a mere three soccer balls to 250 kids. And they didn’t have one soccer ball (before this). And they were jumping up and down and running around," he remembered. "Finally, the light bulb went off and I just started thinking … you know, my daughters go through soccer equipment and uniforms and shoes every few months."
When he got home, he began to research national non-profit organizations that donated used sports equipment to underprivileged and Third World youth. He couldn’t find anything.
"I came across an organization called Soles 4 Souls (which collects and donates shoes to the needy) and he (founder Wayne Elsey) does a fantastic job. I kind of wanted to model it after that. I did a lot of research and there’s really no organization on a national level for this."
That’s when Rolison founded GloBall Giving, a non-profit that collects used sports equipment and distributes it to children in impoverished countries. Because, as it says on their website, every child deserves a chance to play.
"It works on so many great levels," Rolison said. "Locally it helps with recycling efforts because what do you do with old spikes? Goodwill doesn’t necessarily want that, so it goes in the landfills or in people’s garages. And it also helps children who are deserving, and believe it or not it helps on a global level fight childhood obesity, which is on the rise in third-world countries."
Right now, GloBall Giving is being run rent-free out of Rolison’s medical goods office and is staffed by a group of dedicated volunteer board members. But in order to get the charity to the national level that Rolison envisions, they will need a full-time director.
"It’s all (donations) going to shipping, which is expensive, but as we grow we’ll find ways to get it over there, through partnerships and fundraising efforts," he said. "But my goal really is to find a dynamic leader to get this to the next level.
"There’s been a lot of people in the community who have stepped forward and done a fantastic job," he said. "We recognize they have full-time jobs and other commitments going on. What we really want is to hire somebody that can focus on growing this. Then we’ll have other jobs and opportunities as we continue to grow."
Currently GloBall Giving is working with local YMCA’s, Burghardt Sporting Goods stores and local church groups. "We’ve just scratched the surface," said Rolison. "We just got our 501(c)(3) a designation a few months ago. Now we’re going to start trying to hit up any of the funds out there and other philanthropic groups."
Local sports organizations have also responded to the GloBall Giving cause. The Wisconsin Youth Soccer Association recently donated 1,000 brand-new athletic shirts, and the Sussex Soccer Club donated their old uniforms when they merged with Pewaukee Soccer Club. A Canadian friend of Rolison’s who has participated in his Habitat for Humanity trips collected 600 uniforms in her community.
"We just shipped 19 boxes of goods to Brazil and are now working on deliveries for Ghana, Honduras and Belize," he said.
And there’s a steady stream of donations coming from the Rolison household itself. "I always say one of my daughter’s feet grows an inch a day," he said. "So we’re always going through shoes!"
Rolison and the staff at GloBall Giving have found a mentor in Neil Willenson, vice president of community relations at Kapco in Grafton and founder of One Heartland.
"I ran this by him, we have mutual friends, him and some other people in the community that like to keep it on a lower profile that they’re helping out – just for a litmus test, to see if it has legs," said Rolison. "Neil’s done such a fantastic job in his endeavors so he’s helped out and has introduced me to a ton of different people. And just foundational-wise, how to run a non-profit, what you should and shouldn’t do – he’s been a great resource."
The Lakeshore Chinooks have also made donations to GloBall Giving. Kapco is the parent company of that franchise.
For now, Rolison’s immediate goal is a fundraising dinner to be held Oct. 27 at the River Club in Mequon. "Ted Perry from Fox 6 has graciously offered to emcee our event," Rolison said. "I’ve met with Ted and he is extremely interested in the mission and a fantastic individual. He will bring some added fun to the evening."
The Oktoberfest-themed event will begin at 6 p.m. with cocktails, beer tasting and appetizers, followed by dinner. There will be a live and silent auction, a 50/50 raffle, and music. Tickets can be purchased via PayPal.
"All proceeds are going to shipping costs and our national growth initiative," said Rolison.
He is hoping that it will be the first of many annual fundraising dinner for GloBall Giving.
But for now, he’s just trying to live by his mom’s advice.
"I played sports all my life and I love kids and international communities and culture, and the whole sports aspect and exercise – couple that all together, it’s so fun," he said. "Giving back with Frontier at my day job as well as with GloBall is just great. I want to give back with jobs, giving people a safe place to work and the ability to take care of their families."
Colleen Jurkiewicz is a Milwaukee native with a degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and she loves having a job where she learns something new about the Cream City every day. Her previous incarnations have included stints as a waitress, a barista, a writing tutor, a medical transcriptionist, a freelance journalist, and now this lovely gig at the best online magazine in Milwaukee.