When Joe Burke and his wife, Ellen, got tired of telling their soccer-loving kids to play ball outside, they found a way to make life easier for their family and others.

“Five years ago, our kids were playing ball in the house,” Burke said. “It was really hot outside.”

After one child dissolved into tears, the Burkes set out on a path toward 100 prototypes of what would become Ollyball, their house-safe creation, which has been named a top toy at the New York International Toy Fair and elsewhere.

But it all started at the kitchen table.

“We got a balloon and some painter’s tape and started there,” Burke said. 

The project took off quickly.

“My wife was sewing the prototypes,” Burke said. “Friends started asking for them. After about 25 people asking us for it, we knew we were on to something.”

Burke is former brand director of the Disney Store and is no stranger to invention. His wife is a professor of special education. Their training and talents merge well in toy development.

The ball has a core that absorbs impact around an inflatable bladder. The exterior is lightweight and is printed with designs that kids can color. Burke said the ball is now in 17 countries and more than 5,000 stores. 

“I really want parents and grandparents and kids to have the same joy playing with this as we did at our house,” Burke said. 

And if your kid puts some extra heft into their kicks and throws? That’s OK.

“If a kid breaks it or the bladder pops, we replace it at no cost,” Burke said.

That, too, is a family affair. The Burkes’ daughter packs the replacements. 

“I’m teaching my kids how to do business and marketing, and especially customer service,” Burke said. 

As families and classes have fun inside on days when the weather doesn’t cooperate for outside play, Burke is delighted to see his family’s creation play a part.

“Parents love it and kids love it, but most importantly, grandparents love this,” he said. “That was a surprise for us and a good one. It validates why we got into this.”

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