By Jessica Creagan
VERO BEACH -- At any given day, a peek into Karly and Jeffrey Krasnow's vehicles just might yield an overwhelming amount of neon tennis yellow balls.
The Vero Beach siblings enjoy playing tennis, both competitively and recreationally, but their penchant for collecting tennis balls is because they run a nonprofit organization that recycles the bouncy orbs.
This weekend, Karly, 17, and Jeffrey, 16, are being recognized for their work with their nonprofit, Balls-Go-Round, by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indian River Chapter in honor of National Philanthropy Day.
They were awarded the outstanding youth in philanthropy award after receiving a nomination from the Military Moms Prayer Group, a non-denominational prayer group in Indian River County.
Karly and Jeffrey collect the used tennis balls from country clubs and tennis facilities and find new homes for them, whether it's in programs for teaching tennis to local youth, as playthings for newly adopted pets, a tiny pot to start growing a plant from a seed, even Christmas ornaments.
The pair estimates they have recycled and repurposed more than 300,000 tennis balls since 2005 when they began this project.
According to the Krasnow siblings, more than 300 million tennis balls are produced worldwide and disposed each year, leading to 15,000 metric tons of waste annually.
"A tennis ball only has about three hours of play on the court. After three hours, it's considered dead by tennis players," Karly said.
"But we know that there is still plenty of bounce left, it's just not enough for people really into tennis," she said.
Recently, the pair received a $1,300 grant to assist them in converting tennis balls into Christmas ornaments and ship them to military members in Afghanistan and other places overseas.
"That's where the Military Moms come in," Karly said.
Last year, Karly and Jeffrey made 200 ornaments for Military Moms and the response from the soldiers was quite positive, Jeffrey said.
"They loved receiving them and heard a lot of comments back from people. This year we're going to make it even bigger," he said.
"We are going to make 1,000 Christmas ornaments and they will be shipped in December. Our friends will take part and it helps them with community service," Karly said.
Another use they have found for the tennis balls is as desk or chair leg covers.
"We recently drove a lot of tennis balls to our own school to be used under chairs and desks to prevent scratch marks. We just donated them, and the teachers cut them open," Karly said.
Finding new and different ways to use the tennis balls is fun and rewarding for both brother and sister.
Growing up in a tennis-playing family, the waste incurred at the sports facilities was simply unacceptable to Karly and Jeffrey, leading them to begin what would become Balls-Go-Round before they were even teenagers while living in New York.
"It was just extreme waste," Jeffrey said.
When their family moved to Florida in 2007, the amount of useable tennis balls being trashed was even more apparent.
"It's Florida, the mecca of tennis, and there was an even bigger tennis scene and even more waste," Karly said.
Now Karly and Jeffrey collect the tennis balls from places like The Moorings in Vero Beach and other country clubs and tennis facilities and distribute them, promoting sustainability and community involvement.
"We are just so honored by this recognition," Jeffrey said.
For more information about Balls-Go-Round, visit www.facebook.com/ballsgoround.