It’s been a hot minute since I put fingers to keys and I apologize for that. My alter ego is a school teacher and we tend to celebrate the beginning of summer vacation with a lot of gusto. I meant to write this piece weeks ago but then people in the world were awful and I think I was recovering from that too.
About two weeks ago the players in my area did an amazing thing: they raised 620 dollars for a local animal shelter. They also donated so much food and supplies that there wasn’t enough room in their donation boxes for it all.
I was so proud of them. If I was the Grinch (which I am far from), my heart would’ve grown three sizes that day. I received so many heartfelt thank yous that I wished my players could hear. They were the real heroes; I was just the messenger delivering their hard work.
The Magic community can be a powerful place; while it sometimes has a bad reputation, it is mostly filled with good, big hearted people who like to sling spells. I recognized this early on but it wasn’t until I became a judge and started establishing myself as a visible part of the community that an idea wiggled its way into my brain.
This is not only about how I threw together this tournament but also why every community who can support one should do the same. It fosters such a sense of community that it may be powerful enough to pull stores in the area together.
The idea first presented itself while I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. Since I started judging, my social network has grown to include several judges and other Magic folks outside of my area. I paused at one of the events a judge friend had shared. Someone was throwing a draft tournament and all the proceeds were being donated to a local cat rescue. I remember thinking how cool that was and how I would easily pay 15 or 20 bucks for a draft if it meant the money was going to a good cause. I also mentally lamented about the fact that my area would probably never do anything like it.
That’s when I paused and realized there was no real reason why a tournament like that couldn’t happen here. Maybe someone had just never taken the time.
I dropped into the Mid-Atlantic judge group and posted about advice on how to get one fired. My fellow judges had some very solid advice about how to go about doing things. The most common piece of advice was something the effect of: you’ll have a lot of people who will play just to do some good in the world but to really make sure your tournament is successful, you need some kind of prize support that will draw the Spikes out to play too.
Therein lied my first problem: I personally didn’t have a lot to offer in prize support and I knew if I went to a store and asked for both space and product for a tournament where they weren’t receiving any of the entry fees, I would likely be laughed out of the store. I’ve worked at a LGS (local game store) and I understand that they have to make money to survive and continue giving players a place for Magic.
Enter the first of many super heroes: Nicholas Sabin. He’s my regional coordinator and pretty much one of the most awesome judges I’ve had the pleasure to work with. He kind of swooped in like Superman, but I have a feeling he’d rather be compared to Batman. But in this case, he was actually Bruce Wayne; willing to share his bounty for a good cause. He asked me some questions: who was going to judge, what REL (rules enforcement level) would the tournament be played, where was the money being donated to, etc. At that point I only had the basics figured out so he tasked with solidifying the details and then we could chat again.
I was now a woman on a mission and when that happens I get things done. I dropped into the store where I play, Comic Kings, and brought it up with my friend Patrik who runs all things Magical at the shop. He was all about the idea but had to pass it by the big boss and I would hear from him in a day or so.
Those few days were torture; I now had the bit firmly in my teeth and I just wanted to run with it. When I get excited about something, my enthusiasm knows no bounds, but I also knew without a place to play this would never happen anyway. When I got the confirmation that they would love to host for free I was over the moon.
Until I realized I still didn’t know where the money would go.
I thought on it for a long time; there are a lot of bigger organizations that do wonderful things for the world but those didn’t really feel like they fit right. I’d started to realize that this could be a chance for some real community building and for that to happen to its fullest potential, the recipient needed to be local to the community as well. I wanted Magic to do some good in the world, even if it was just my local world.
My brain wandered but then it redirected itself back to the original inspiration and I was struck with how silly I was being. A lot of people love animals, so why not throw it to benefit the local shelter. I even had a contact on the inside; getting someone on the phone should be easy.
Y’all, it took weeks and several visits before I was able to talk to the right person in the shelter. I almost gave up; I saw this little dream I created inching further and further away and I started to think it would never happen. Then I finally got on the phone with Amanda, who was in charge of community relations for the shelter and I explained my idea to her.
She was so happy and excited and it filled my heart with such joy. She even agreed to bring out a few of the shelter dogs which made me the most excited. Magic and dogs? Match made in lovable heaven.
One last obstacle lay in my path: I needed to find a judge. When talking with Nicholas Sabin, I had originally volunteered to do it myself because I didn’t feel comfortable asking another judge to essentially work for free. But again, he was a super hero and not only offered prize support for the event but also support to give to a judge working the event.
I ended up asking my friend and rock star L2 Jeph Foster if he would head judge the event. He accepted, graciously giving up his opportunity to go to GP Columbus that same weekend.
It turned out that I hit a gold mine by asking Jeph to judge. Not only was he super excited about the event, but he also made a stunning flyer to advertise it as well.
Together, the both of us advertised in the weeks leading up to the tournament. (I know people in my local Facebook magic group as well as the people tied to my personal Facebook page must have gotten sick of it toward the end, but I was determined to make it as successful as possible.)
The community as a whole also rallied behind us and the tournament. The flyer was shared countless times on Facebook and I dropped flyers off at other stores with their permission.
But that wasn’t the best part.
Our community Magic scene can be very combative. Stores don’t always play nice and work together, which as a judge trying to build up a community can be very frustrating. The stores know it but still refuse to budge on certain things. A lot of my players have voiced concern that my goal to unite the stores in my area is a lost cause, but it’s one of my goals on my large judging to-do list and I will get it done.
Turns out charity helps lay down a lot of that groundwork. I contacted more stores in the area about possibly contributing and the outpouring of support blew me away. I had two separate stores donate boxes or packs of Magic cards. I also had other players throw in more prizes as well, including a World Magic Cup Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and several playmats from Jeph, and my other judge friends Austin Whitehead, Eric Dustin Brown, and Brogan Elizabeth King.
The day of the tournament was beautiful, if hot, and once the doors open the donations just started rolling in. We ended up having 31 players, just short of six rounds, and Jeph ran a smooth tournament and I could tell the players were enjoying it (door prizes after every round helps). I hopped from player relations to making sure the dogs and shelter volunteers were hydrated and as cool as we could make it.
It was amazing to watch the players interact with the dogs, but it also brought the attention of the people shopping in the area that day. Each time I went outside, the volunteers were talking to someone new. Inside, I could tell that my players felt good about the good things they were doing for the community.
All told we raised $620 and enough supplies to fill up the trunk of my car as well as almost the entire interior. When I dropped off the supplies, the employees at the shelter just watched with big grins as I brought in armful after armful. Even more exciting; the money we raised was able to pay for heartworm surgery for (in my opinion) the cutest dog there, Ranger.
Now a full month and a half later, I still have people talking about it. More than a few have asked me if I’m planning on doing another one (it’s certainly in the back of my mind). I’m hoping that continued philanthropy and cooperation between stores will help push my area toward a better, more positive Magic scene.
Our work is far from done, but with the help of players and stores, we can make that concept a reality.
Oh! I almost forgot the best part: we helped get two of the shelter dogs who showed up (the Dachshund Charlie and the yellow Labrador) adopted! Keep scrolling to gush over their adorable faces.