Monday, September 06, 2010

Magic for the Cure: An Experiment in Generosity

I was raised with a habit of giving back. Many of you likely were as well – we are judges after all, and what does that involve if not giving back to the community which has so richly impacted our lives? For me, it started in 1989 when I was in 6th grade. A 15 year old girl in my hometown was kidnapped and killed. She had played in the same softball league as my sister and I, and my dad had umpired many of her games – our league was one big family, and we were shaken. But that spring, the league pulled together and organized a (now annual) tournament in her memory, with all proceeds going to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Fast forward to 2009. Lurking on the Judge list, I see a post about the Mana Pool charity tournament for local food banks. I think, “I should do something like that.” A few months later, Lloyd Dodson hosts a tournament to benefit HopeLine. This time, I travel out to play in it and think, “I should do something like this.” Then a friend at work is diagnosed with breast cancer, and our office starts organizing a team for the Susan G. Komen race in her honor. And I think, “This is it, this I can do!

The shop I organize tournaments for feels cramped at about 16 players, plus it’s a small community. So I got out my calendar and the events list for a shop 30 miles south of me and found a day when they had no major events booked (they run not just Magic but several miniatures and board game events a week). Luckily for me, it was the Saturday of Labor Day weekend – college students would be back in town and most of the older players with kids wouldn’t probably be going far that weekend either. I talked with the store’s owners and offered to manage the whole of the tournament if they would let me reserve the space for a charity event. They agreed, and I started the wheels turning.

My first email went to several individuals who I knew personally, either from working major events together or shops that I frequented. I shamelessly solicited prize donations and contacts so I could beg for more prizes. I wrote up a more detailed description of what I wanted the tournament to be, and sent it to be posted on the host store’s website as well as the “local events” page run by the nearest large tournament organizer (thank you, Steve and Lloyd!). I sent a similar writeup to the judge list… and then my inbox exploded.

I expected to hear from judges – at least some of the folks I’ve worked with. That I would maybe get a card here or there. I thought if things went well, I’d have enough prizes for my top 8. I quickly realized that I was thinking much too small when I got an email from Nick Sabin telling me to contact Andy Heckt about a personal donation. When Big Jace and Gideon arrived in my mailbox, I really started to believe this was going to be big. By the day before the tournament, I had received over $1000 in donated product – everything from storage/organization boxes to t-shirts to Revised duals and bunches of judge foils.

Twenty-seven players participated. As usual, I was the only girl in the building for most of the tournament. Which made it even more special, honestly. It’s easy for breast cancer to feel very gender-centric, and to see men and boys (my youngest player’s deck was built by his mom!) come out to support us meant a lot. We raised $540, which will go directly to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This amount puts me over triple my individual goal AND pushed my team well over their initial goal as well.

I had enough prizes that I was able to give everyone something AND go back halfway through the list again. For those curious, the top 8 picks were: Box of M11, Box of M11, Big Jace, From the Vault: Relics, Judge Polluted Delta, Revised Volcanic Island, Revised Badlands, Judge Natural Order.

Thank you again to everyone who helped make this possible – even some of you who contacted me but ended up not making it because of last-minute plan changes. Your encouragement helped make this happen. Your gifts will be remembered.

If you think this is an isolated incident, let me tell you, it is NOT. When I played in Lloyd’s tournament, I was positively euphoric. I heard something similar from Martin, one of the participants this weekend. He told me, “I’m not the greatest player ever. I have three kids, so I’m not going to be. But I love playing charity events, because I’ve done what I came to do the minute I handed you my entry fee. I can relax and have fun in a way I can’t in a more competitive event.” Several players asked me to do this again. And if I can help someone else – just contact me. I’ll see what I can send you.

It’s the least I can do to give back.

Regina Cross is a Level 1 Judge in Moberly, Missouri, and the daughter of a three-year breast cancer survivor.