Messenger - Vol. 2, No. 2, Page 25
Winter 1993
Alumni Profile: Wildlife gets a sporting chance

     The face of soccer has gone wild-wild with stripes, spots and colors.
Not just another soccer ball, the Wildball is brightly colored with
simulated skin patterns of wild animals-zebras, cheetahs, panthers,
leopards and tigers.
     "We've taken something common and put a different twist on it," says
Wildball creator Mark Manniso, Delaware '84, who manages Forte Sports in
Newark, Del.
     A percentage of each Wildball sale is donated to the African Wildlife
Foundation (AWF). "This is a great cause that we really believe in," he
says. "With each ball, we educate about rare and endangered species, and we
include an application to join AWF."
     The original idea for Wildballs actually came from a Dr. Seuss book,
Horton the Elephant Hatches the Egg, a story about jungle animals that
Manniso says he has read to his children many times. One night after
putting his girls to bed, he started doodling with Crayolas and, voila, the
flamboyant Wildball was born.
     His wife, Karen Olson Manniso, Delaware '84, a physical education
teacher, tested the ball in her classes, and kids loved it, her husband
     While a student, Manniso was the "Hoops" mascot of the Philadelphia
76ers basketball team for three years before going into advertising. After
working for various small agencies in New York, he and his father started
     "Our company is actually very small, but the press makes us sound
huge," says Manniso, whose Wildball creation has been covered by the
Associated Press, ESPN, CNN, USA Today and many soccer magazines.
     Forte has 26 national representatives across the United States and in
Canada. Wildballs are carried by Nature Company stores nationwide, and
Manniso says a smaller Wildball "cub" ball is being sold in K-Mart,
Wal-Mart and Toys 'R' Us.
     Since Forte means "power" in Italian, the company slogan is "Forte-The
New Power in Sports."
     "Eventually," Manniso says, "I hope Wildballs become the Ben and
Jerry's of soccer."
                                   -Michelle Carlstrom, Delaware '94