SquashCares, a non-profit corporation, was started by Sydney Soloway, an avid squash player and a senior at the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, MA. SquashCares uses the sport of squash to help make the world a better place. Currently, we have two programs that leverage squash. We collect dead squash balls and create ball blankets for people with ADHD and autism. We also collect used squash equipment and distribute it to urban squash programs.
Our ball blanket project was inspired by a squash club in Finland that reused its dead squash balls and created ball blankets for kids with ADHD and autism and then gave them away to people who could use them. Sydney also has two significantly developmentally disabled cousins, and she has seen how beneficial ball blankets can be.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Winner
Breaking News – On February 6, 2018, Sydney was recognized by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards as a Massachusetts Distinguished Finalist for her work with SquashCares! In 2015 and 2016, she received a Certificate of Excellence, which is awarded to the top 10% of state nominees. This year, she is a Finalist, which goes to the top 2-10 nominees in the state.
Balls and Ball Blankets
Since SquashCares started in September 2014, we have collected over 16,200 dead squash balls. More than 500 volunteers at sewing events have sewn the balls into over 80 ball blankets. The blankets have been donated to autistic individuals and 12 organizations servicing hundreds of people with disabilities. Recipient organizations include – The Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism, Cooperative for Human Services, TILL- Toward Independent Living and Learning, Autism Alliance of Metrowest, The Walker School, Cardinal Cushing School, The Shared Living Collaborative, The Gifford School, the Lurie Center for Autism at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Bay State Medical Center, The Higginson Lewis K-8 School, and the John Silber Early Learning Center.
These ball blankets are constructed from fleece and one hundred to three hundred balls, depending on the weight of the child, and are suitable for children weighing from fifty to one hundred fifty pounds.
Our blankets make a real impact in the lives of others. Here are some endorsements from a couple of our client organizations:
“We just gave one of the blankets to a family yesterday and they were so happy!! They are clean, soft and perfect weight for so many of the children with autism we see here at the Autism Alliance. We can’t thank SquashCares enough for their generosity and community outreach.”
Allison Daigle, Executive Co-Director, Autism Alliance of MetroWest
“The SquashCares sensory blankets can offer a sense of security and produce a calming effect for individuals with autism who have specific sensory needs. Thank you to SquashCares for their continued support of the autism community and for ‘helping families affected by autism live life to the fullest!’”
Lisa Collins, Director of Community Partnerships & Family Supports, Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism
As a junior squash player, Sydney recognized that she and many of her friends were replacing their rackets and shoes before they were broken or no longer useful. She realized that much of this equipment was valuable for people just starting the game or in need of equipment. In addition, by reusing the equipment, waste is removed from landfills.
As a result of these needs, so far, SquashCares has collected over 415 pieces of squash equipment! We have collected 199 squash rackets through our racket program for donation to two urban squash programs – CitySquash and Squash Haven. Our shoe program has resulted in the collection of 124 pairs of squash shoes for donation to Squash Haven, SquashBusters and the PSA ReBound program. In addition, Dunlop Sports donated 20 new pairs of goggles which were donated by SquashCares to middle school squash players at the November 2016 SquashBusters ball blanket sewing event. Another 13 pairs of goggles, 6 squash bags and 54 pieces of clothing have been collected from players. These contributions allow important programs to bring squash to students who might not otherwise have the chance to play squash. We are thrilled to have outfitted over 120 urban squash players with rackets and shoes. We welcome inquires from other programs that might benefit from used squash shoes and rackets.
SquashCares donations to urban squash programs expand playing opportunities for urban squash players. But don’t take it from us. See what our partner organizations have to say:
“CitySquash greatly appreciates the generous donations from SquashCares. Through these donations of rackets and other squash equipment items we have been able to provide our team members with the appropriate squash equipment in order to compete in squash tournaments and camps. We are greatly appreciative of SquashCares for always keeping us in mind and for enriching the squash experiences of our team members here at CitySquash.”
Chris Fernandez, Squash Director, CitySquash
Looking to get involved?
You can learn more about our projects on this website. We are actively soliciting new potential recipients of ball blankets. Please reach out to Sydney if you would like a ball blanket or know of someone who could benefit from one. You can also contact us to contribute your dead squash balls or your used squash equipment.
Interested in creating your own ball blanket? There are approximately 500,000 squash balls dumped into the waste stream annually; that’s too many balls for us to recycle into ball blankets! We need help from people worldwide to eliminate a more substantial amount of balls from the waste stream and to create more ball blankets for autistic and ADHD individuals.
SquashCares would love to involve schools and organizations by having them host their own sewing events. We can help you create your own ball blankets. Based on a generous donation from Polartec, we have fleece we can give to you for your blankets, and you can learn how to sew blankets from our step-by-step tutorial. We’d also be happy to provide you with our flyers and organizational tips for your event. All you need are balls (and we can probably help you with those too), sewing machines, thread, rulers, masking tape and volunteers.
These great clubs and schools currently host ball collection bins for SquashCares – Dana Hall School, The Maugus Club, Hamilton College, St. Paul’s School, Cross Courts Squash, Williams College, Harvard University, The Hopkins School, Pomfret School, and Newton Squash and Tennis. Please drop your balls in collection bins at those facilities. If your club or school is not on our list, please encourage them to host a collection bin.
In 2017-18, we are expanding our efforts into Philadelphia, Providence, Groton and Johanessburg, South Africa as a result of our relationships with the community service organizations of Drexel University, SquashSmarts, Rhode Island School of Design, the Groton School and EgoliSquash. We will also continue our relationship with Framingham State University. If you are a student or a college squash player in those areas and would like to participate in SquashCares, please reach out to us as we need feet on the ground to coordinate ball collection activities in those areas and volunteers.
If you want to participate in our programs, please reach out to Sydney Soloway at firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate your support and participation!