What will you do to #SupportTheNext? The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre has found a creative way of raising money to help SportsAid....by selling second-hand tennis balls to pet shops in Essex!
The used balls are collected up from the courts in east London and Paul Warwick-Munday, the centre's Duty Manager, drives out to the pet shops and delivers hundreds on each of this trips.
The balls are sold in the pet shops where there is a SportsAid collection tin at the check-out desks. They are extremely popular with dog owners and have so far managed to raise £694.58.
“It all started about five years ago when I worked at a tennis club in Chingford,” said Paul. “Tennis is an incredibly wasteful game and players tend to throw away perfectly serviceable tennis balls and in great number. I was challenged by this and wanted to find a solution.
“When I arrived at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, the problem seemed to be even more acute and at times literally hundreds of balls were being disposed of. I decided to approach a few large pet shops.
“At first they were reluctant as it would have provided a rival to their own cheap and nasty sling tennis ball available in their shops. I explained that real tennis balls last much longer and that it would be sensible for them to offer my real balls with the slinger.
“I knew that this was an opportunity to generate funds. I needed a sport related charity as we are a sports centre, and one that covered both hockey and tennis. Hence I have hooked up with SportsAid. It seems a natural fit.”
The pet shops selling the used tennis balls are Crown Corner in Kelvedon Hatch, Time4Pets in Brentwood, Bubbles Petcare in Ongar, and the Connaught Club in Chingford. Paul simply made contact by turning up ‘with a bag full of ball and bundles of enthusiasm!’.
To help collect up all the second-hand balls, signs have been put up around the centre to remind players that they will be helping to raise money for SportsAid and the next generation of hockey and tennis players.
“Posters have been posted on all of our courts and now most members know to bring their balls to us for onward dispatch,” revealed Paul. “From time-to-time the coaches also give me their tired balls.
“I am also in touch with my old tennis club, and they bring me batches from time-to-time, which is very kind of them. I then keep them in boxes until I get the chance to drive out to Brentwood and Ongar where the pet shops are.”
The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre's fundraising activity doesn't stop there. They recently held a quiz to raise money for SportsAid, Hockey for Heroes and the Tom Wilson Memorial Fund.
The quiz raised £600 to go between the three causes with Team GB men's hockey goalkeeper George Pinner, who received a SportsAid award (TASS) in 2011, providing his backing on the evening.
Andy Halliday, Team GB men's hockey Team Manager, and Sue Catton, and England Hockey Events Manager, also joined George to show their support for the fundraising event which had been planned at relatively short notice.
“I am always thinking of new ways to make our centre even more convivial to our members and I see evenings such as the quiz night as perfect opportunities for members to relax and meet new friends, over a drink, whilst lending support to wonderful good causes,” said Paul.
“We had just over 60 attendees but we hope to increase the numbers with our next event which will be in the middle of the mainstream hockey season. The entry fee goes towards the charity. We do take £2.00 from each participants which covers a very decent buffet.”
The Team GB hockey squads were announced recently with 23 of the 38 players having previously received SportsAid support across both the men’s and women’s teams for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre has just hosted the Hockey Champions Trophy with international players to young children all using the facilities. The centre is the biggest hockey facility in the country and has 10 first-class tennis courts.