Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome: Speaking with Nathan Olsen

This is such a rare syndrome.  The more that we vocalize about it, the more people become aware of it.  We are always looking for ways to spread awareness.

Nathan Olsen, speaking about TTTS.

The Charity Boardgamer: Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into the gaming hobby?

Nate: Hey Chris,  Thanks for taking the time to interview me.  I am 34 year old Father of 4 kids (Cynthia, Ezekiel, Ezra and Elloise).  I have been married to my wonderful wife for 9, going on 10 years. I currently manage a local gym that has recently just opened.  I get the opportunity to personal train and teach classes to our local community.
I got into gaming through a couple of friends.  We would do game night every couple weeks.  We started with Catan, then I proceeded to purchase Lords Of Waterdeep.  After that we moved back to my home state where gaming took a bit of a back seat. Summer of 2018 we took the plunge in the hobby.  
Around March we started Sons Of Thunder Games as an outlet to take photos of various kinds.  We take thematic, in game, and also sometimes do reviews.  We love it.  We love being able to interact with the community.

The Charity Boardgamer: What has been a go-to game you have been playing a lot lately?

Nate: There have been a couple of games.  Gloomhaven- We have finally formed a solid enough group to meet once a week.  The card management is so intense.  We love it.  Underwater Cities-  This one has been one of the best games we have played this year.  It’s simple in mechanics yet tough with decision making.  Cannot recommend enough. Res Arcana- My favorite game from 2019.  Such a tight engine building game.

The Charity Boardgamer: Any designer that you have great respect for or a publisher that you have enjoyed?

Nate: Stonemaier Games.  They produce beautiful games, but also games that are super accessible to new gamers.

The Charity Boardgamer: Tell me about TTTS. What does it stand for?

Nate: “Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) is the result of an intrauterine blood transfusion from one twin (donor) to another twin (recipient). TTTS only occurs in monozygotic (identical) twins with a monochorionic placenta. The donor twin is often smaller with a birth weight 20% less than the recipient’s birth weight”

TTTS affects 5-15 percent of identical twin pregnancies. So it’s a pretty rare complication to have/hear about.

The Charity Boardgamer: Why is this TTTS Team important to you?

Nate: TTTS team is important to me in many ways.  In 2013 we found out we had Identical Twins.  Around 16 weeks they were diagnosed with TTTS.  The boys were in stage 3. We then went to the University of Michigan where they mapped the placenta and did laser ablation on the blood vessels connecting the boys.  The recipient baby (Hezekiah) passed away from Heart Failure. 
This is such a rare syndrome.  The more that we vocalize about it, the more people become aware of it.  We are always looking for ways to spread awareness.

The Charity Boardgamer: What is a way that we can help with the organization?

Nate: Well, I think supporting this organization will also help to support the parents who have been affected by this.  It’s a pretty hard thing to deal with.  The anniversary of Hezekiah passing is March 7th, so around this time of the year we always reflect on Ezekiel & Hezekiah. Because of TTTS Ezekiel has Sensory Processing Disorder.  So it’s always going to be something that we deal with. 

The Charity Boardgamer: Where can we go to find more information about TTTS?


Nate: Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) | UCSF Fetal Treatment Center

Reflecting on Extra Life with Brian Moats

In 2011, I lost my mother, and as I approached the first anniversary of her passing, I discovered Extra Life. Extra Life is a charity that raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals around the nation. I joined Extra Life as a way of remembering my mother and doing some good in her name.

-Brian Moats, speaking of why he joined Extra Life

I have enjoyed getting to know Brian and the work he is doing for Extra Life. We recently corresponded on Extra Life via Email. Enjoy!

TheCharityBoardgamer: Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into the gaming hobby?

Brian: I have been involved in gaming since about 1990 when I first played a Nintendo Entertainment System. I was always drawn to their stories, visuals, and the different mechanics they used. I was particularly drawn to platformers and roleplay games. This passion led me to pursue degrees in computer science, mathematics, and business with the hope of one day starting my own game development company. Currently, I am a software engineer working on a NASA contract.

In 2011, I lost my mother, and as I approached the first anniversary of her passing, I discovered Extra Life. Extra Life is a charity that raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals around the nation. I joined Extra Life as a way of remembering my mother and doing some good in her name. I created my team WVGamers along with a number of close friends who knew her. Every year we get together, play games, and do good for our community.

Around 2016, I discovered modern board games at a new friendly local game shop (FLGS) opened nearby; I had played a few such as Dungeon and Arkham Horror prior to this. This FLGS has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people who have taught me about so many wonderful games and have joined me on this Extra Life journey to help children and their families in need.

Someone has been playing too much Mega Man 2.

TheCharityBoardgamer: What has been a go-to game you have been playing a lot lately?

Brian: Honestly, I play 10-15 different games a month, but if I were to pick a couple games that are constant go-to games, I would say Ticket to Ride, Mystic Vale, and Splendor.

TheCharityBoardgamer: Any designer that you have great respect for or a publisher that you have enjoyed?

Brian: That is a tough question; I have great respect for all of those designers who have breathed life into these games we all love. The ideas for these games started as spark in their imagination, and they had the burning passion to take a risk and give these games form.

If I had to pick a couple publishers I constantly follow, that would probably be AEG, Smirk and Laughter/Dagger, and Stronghold Games. That said, there are so many smaller publishers make amazing games that may be easy to overlook. Swordcrafters by Adam’s Apple Games is one game I found so unique and led me to really enjoying their other titles. Kobold’s Ate My Babies introduced me to 9th Level Games and all of the other amazing games they have released and continue to release. Ambyria by Paw Warrior Games, Aetherium/Front Lines No Komrades by Anvil 8 Games, Fire in the Library by Weird Giraffe Games…ok…As I said, it is really hard to actually settle on a few because there are so many amazing gems hidden away in the ocean of games.

TheCharityBoardgamer: Tell me about Extra Life.

Brian: Extra Life, as I mentioned earlier, is a charity that raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. It does so in a marathon style where gamers will spend typically 24 hours straight gaming for the cause while asking for donation support from family and friends. There is no “right” way to handle these. Some Extra Lifers do 24 hour twitch streams, where people will tune in to see what games they are playing; others host centralized events to the public, where they have a schedule of games people can come and play as they wish during the 24 hour period. 24 hours may seem like too much to some; you are free to split the event across weekends or even event months. It is all about the spirit of the cause.

When you sign up, you have the opportunity to select which hospital you will be supporting, which means your donations stay local and support families you may know.

Our Extra Life team, WVGamers, host various events throughout the year to keep Extra Life in the mind of those in the community with the hopes that more people will get involved. We offer free gaming opportunities, raffles, bake sales, and other creative fundraising tactics.

TheCharityBoardgamer: Why is Extra Life important to you?

Brian: I wish I had a deep touching story of how the Children’s Hospital helped me personal or someone I knew. In all honesty, it started as a positive distraction to help with a hard time in my life after losing my mother and as a way to send positive karma into the universe. Over the years as I got to know the hospital representatives and others passionate about the charity, I really grew attached to it and wanted to do more each year. Each year, over 3 million children find themselves needing the aid of children’s hospital and many spend a lot of time there. I love the idea that the donations I raise goes to helping a local child. The donations are used to help make the child’s time spent at the hospital enjoyable through movie/game stations, cameras for families to check in on their children in the NICU after they have to return to work, and even to educate the children and families about whatever illness the child may be battling.

TheCharityBoardgamer: What is a way that we can help with the Extra Life?

Brian: There are a lot of ways individuals can help. Those with a gaming passion can sign up and seek donations from their community; there is always a need for more people with fresh ideas to get involved.

Those who don’t wish to sign up themselves, tell your friends and family about Extra Life; the more people who know about this wonderful charity, the more opportunities we have to help our community.

Finally, donate. Every dollar helps. You can do one-time payments or even setup re-occurring payments of whatever value; I hear a lot of people like to setup re-occurring donations for a few dollars a month because that adds up over the year and easily money they won’t even notice is gone.

Brian and Amanda rocking the game demos.

TheCharityBoardgamer: Where can we go to find more information about Extra Life?

Brian: The best place to learn more about Extra Life is their website: https://www.extra-life.org/. You can get information about the charity, how to join, and search for people you may know who are supporting the cause.

TheCharityBoardgamer: What were some things from 2019 that you enjoyed? What did you learn?

Brian: Our team is amazing. When I started, I had 1 person signed up for WVGamers and 10 fellow gamers. In 2019, I had over 30 people on the WVGamers team and most of them contributed in some way. Our core planning team consisted of about 6-9 people. They had wonderful ideas on how to get more people signed up across the state, new fundraising ideas (geek penny wars, t-shirt sales, local geek celebrities), and were typically self-driven. It was great knowing there was a supportive team that was always there helping out and took the pressure off my girlfriend and my shoulders.

I think there is a balance that we are trying to find between how many events we can successfully host. We hosted three major events, a couple dozen smaller events, and were all over the state throughout the year for various conventions. While it was great, it also put a strain on a few members of the team; so, I need to be more sensitive to these situations in future years.

Brian has gone mad, and I think he likes it…

TheCharityBoardgamer: What do you hope to accomplish this year?

Brian: On a team level, I want to surpass $9,000 raised again (partly because I want to use the OVER 9,000 meme from Dragonball Z), and I would love to draw in 3-5 more active members of the team to help attend a few of the events around the state that are just a little out of most of our teams’ range. I want to keep driving the fact that we are a team…no, a family, and everyone is equally important. I want to spend a little more time, as a captain, focusing on individual’s strengths and interests to help them find new ways to better themselves and push forward with their own ideas for the betterment of our teams ideals and the amazing cause we support.

If you would like to donate towards Brian and his campaign for Extra Life, click here.

Causeacon: Making an Impact with Desiree Christian

I think the Women’s Resource Center is an important charity since it provides shelter and counseling for not only women, but men and children too who suffer from domestic and sexual violence.

-Desiree Christian, talking about the Women’s Resource Center

I had the pleasure of speaking with Desiree about Causeacon, a charity based convention held in Beckley, West Virginia. The interview was conducted via email.

TheCharityBoardgamer: Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into the gaming hobby?

Desi: I’ve been playing games since I was a kid, starting with the classic SNES. I love all systems and game types as well as board games and D&D.

TheCharityBoardgamer: What has been a go-to game you have been playing a lot lately?

Desi: Lately my go-to games have been: Luigi’s Mansion 3 for Switch, Mario Kart Tour & Cookie Run for the phone and putting puzzles together.

Cosplay, games, guests and more and all for a good cause

TheCharityBoardgamer: Any designer that you have great respect for or a publisher that you have enjoyed?

Desi: As a music fan and musician myself, I’d like to give a shout out to my two favorite gaming composers: Yoko Shimomura & Nobuo Uematsu

TheCharityBoardgamer: Tell us about Causeacon. How did it get started?

Desi: My sister-in-law tagged me in a post on Facebook about someone wanting to start a convention in Beckley. I immediately sent emails back and forth with Dee Sizemore from the Women’s Resource Center and we met that night. I wanted to be involved since I have helped in different areas of other conventions before. She flat out asked me, “Do you want to run it?” and without hesitation, I said “Yes!” I found out later on that Causeacon was the brain-child of a parent who would take her kids to other conventions but wanted one that was closer to home (Libby Massey). That idea was brought to the WRC as a fundraising idea and 4 years later we’re still going strong.


TheCharityBoardgamer: Why is charity important to you?

Desi: I think the Women’s Resource Center is an important charity since it provides shelter and counseling for not only women, but men and children too who suffer from domestic and sexual violence. It gives those people a chance to get away from their abusers in a safe environment. I’m also an animal lover and support the humane society, they do good work there.

TheCharityBoardgamer: What is a way that we can help with the charity?

Desi: You can help out both the WRC just be attending Causeacon! All of the proceeds made at the convention from the ticket sales to selling merchandise are donated WRC. We also fundraise for Causeacon all year round, so attending any of our side events like Nerd Trivia Night and Late Night Gaming will also benefit WRC & Causeacon. We also host a Cosplay Dog Show at Causeacon where we dress the adoptable dogs from the Humane Society in costumes and walk them down the “cat-walk” in hopes that attendees would want to adopt some of the dogs.

TheCharityBoardgamer: What are some events or activities we can look forward to at Causeacon?

Desi: The most popular events would be the Cosplay Contest and our Otaku Bingo. We also host several video game and table top gaming tournaments as well as game shows all weekend including the Mario Party Game Show and Name That Video Game Tune. If you’re looking for something exciting, the Sleeping Samurai battle room, Nerf War and Galactic Rave is bound to get your heart racing. Then you can chill out at a more relaxing events like our Cosplay Ball and Zen Room where you can watch anime and read manga.

A father and daughter playing War Chest at the event

TheCharityBoardgamer: Where can we go to find more information about Causeacon?

Desi: We have a website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!
www.causeaccon.com or look up Causeacon on our other platforms. Facebook is a great place to find out about upcoming events we host all year.

All throughout the month of April, The Charity Boardgamer is donating 60% of its profits towards Causeacon and the efforts it is making for the WRC. You can click here to go to our Merch Store.

Reflecting on Extra Life with Amanda Jones

Over the years we still honor her, but we have greatly grown our cause as our friends have children of their own that have spent time at our local CMN Hospital… Seeing what impact the funds through Extra Life have done for children at my local CMN Hospital really helps.

-Amanda Lynn Jones, talking about Extra Life

We have had the pleasure of working with Amanda with Extra Life and the following interview was done over email.

The Charity Boardgamer: Amanda, can you tell us about yourself and how you got into the gaming hobby?

Amanda: Hello, I’m Amanda Jones.  A couple things about myself: I love softball and anything Virginia Tech. I’m originally from VA, go Hokies!  I’ve always like board games growing up. My first game I ever remember playing was Pretty Pretty Princess. 

I just recently got back into the hobby a little over 3 years ago when my local game store opened at the mall, Four Horsemen Comics & Gaming.  Now we have about 550 base games, and if you include expansions, we have over 750!  We have a bit of an addiction, gotta have them all. 

The Charity Boardgamer: What has been a go-to game you have been playing a lot lately?

Amanda: Oh man, my go to game, hmmm…. Ticket to Ride gets to the table a lot but also Mystic Vale.  Both are completely different games but oh so much fun to play.


The Charity Boardgamer: Any designer that you have great respect for or a publisher that you have enjoyed?

Amanda: I have followed Rather Dashing Games since the very beginning of the company.  One of the founders was on a tv show that I just loved Ghost Hunters and when he left the show I quickly became a fan of their games.  They have some simple games and then some dungeon crawl type games.  They are a lot of fun.I also really love Looney Labs.  I learned about them a few years ago through Extra Life.  They were one of the sponsors one year and I was able to get a couple of their games through it.  The games that I have played of theirs are a lot of fun.  My recent addition, Fluxx Marvel, is so much fun especially when the Groot card comes out. 


The Charity Boardgamer: Tell us about Extra Life.

Amanda: Sorry this is going to be a long answer. Extra Life began in 2008 in Orange, TX.    There was a little girl by the name of Victoria who is the reason behind the charity.  Unfortunately, she ended up passing away from cancer, but her legacy lives on through this organization.  You can learn more about her here.

Extra Life typically sets aside one day a year and holds a 24-hour (or 25 hours if it falls on daylight savings) event.  The best thing, you don’t have to do it that day or even for the full time.  You can even break it up and do two 12 hour days or four 6 hour days.  My team typically does an event once a quarter at our local game store and then does a big 24 hour event to wrap up the year on the nationally recognized game day.  

In 2010, Extra Life joined forces with Children’s Miracle Network hospitals and has grown through this partnership.  100% of the donations raised goes directly to the CMN Hospital that you sign up for.  In West Virginia our state only has one CMN recognized hospital, WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital which is located in Morgantown. Last year, I was able to raise personally over $1,500 dollars for my local CMN Hospital, and as a state we raised nearly $40,000 through the Extra Life program with about 383 registered participants.

Extra Life is similar to like hoops for heart or jump for heart. You sign up and say you are going to raise money through the program and then you ask your friends and family for donations, and companies may even sponsor you.  Then you just game to raise money.  You can play video games, role playing games and board games. Heck, you can even play Quidditch.  Whatever you classify as gaming, you can do it.  If you want to play baseball to raise money, go for it!  

Amanda went mad with Tower of Madness. All Hail Cthulhu!

The Charity Boardgamer: Why is charity/organization important to you?

Amanda: In all honesty, I got started nine years ago with my boyfriend as a way to honor the passing of his mother the previous year.  The first year we participated it fell during the month she was killed and we needed the distraction and wanted something to honor her that she also enjoyed.  She use to play Wii bowling a lot with Brian and I early on in our relationship.  She was a beast with it.  Brian registered that year and has participated the past nine years.  I finally jumped on the bandwagon and signed up two years later, and we have continued signing up each year.

Over the years we still honor her, but we have greatly grown our cause as our friends have children of their own that have spent time at our local CMN Hospital.  Thankfully it was nothing serious, just precautionary stuff.  Seeing what impact the funds through Extra Life have done for children at my local CMN Hospital really helps. 

One year the money went to NICU cameras and the families were given login information so when they unfortunately had to go back to work they could login and see their kids.  Another year they did a sorta Redbox that they kids can scan their hospital bands and check out video games or movies to enjoy.  The next few years the funds will be going to an education tv system that the kids can use to learn about their illnesses, since more often they are missing out on school so this is a way they can work on their education.  This will be a new system that will go along with the new tower that is currently in construction for the hospital.  It will house over 140 rooms. 

The cool thing about our CMN Hospital is a window that oversees our local Division 1 college football stadium for the WVU Mountaineers.  With this new tower, they are trying to create a mountaineer locker room on the top floor so kids can feel like they are in a locker room.  That will be a nice addition to the children’s hospital. Also, each hospital has a guild that represents that particular hospital.  Since West Virginia only has one registered CMN Hospital, our guild is WVU Children’s Extra Life Guild. 

The guild is structured with a leadership team that consists of our hospital representatives, a president (which I am currently holding for our state, setting up meetings for the entire state, a kickoff meeting to bring all Extra Lifers together to come up with goals for the year and be the face for the hospital with local companies and businesses), a vice president (that typically reaches out to local conventions in and around the state to set up appearances) and a secretary position (takes minutes for our meetings as well as being our book-keeper of conventions attended and what not).  The guild helps give information to the rest of the registered members in the state so they know what is being done with the hospital and sort of the in-between person if something comes up and needs help throughout the year.

The Charity Boardgamer: What is a way that we can help with the charity/organization?

Amanda: One way is to personally sign up at extra-life.org.  Even if you don’t raise anything, signing gets you emails with updates about what’s going on with the program and your local CMN Hospital.  Donating is always good.  Every little bit helps!  Spread the word about Extra Life.  When one person hears about it they tell others, and it will grow and impact more people.

The Charity Boardgamer: Where can we go to find more information about Extra Life?

Amanda: You can go onto www.extra-life.org to learn more about the program and to register.  Each hospital has their own Extra Life guild as well. West Virginia, only has one hospital so our state only has one guild, so check out WVU Children’s Extra Life on Facebook. 

You can see some of these crazy people April 25th at The Four Horsemen raising money for Extra Life.

 
The Charity Boardgamer: What were some things from 2019 that you enjoyed? What did you learn?

Amanda: Oh man something that I enjoyed from 2019, hmm, I really enjoyed going to larger conventions. I was able to attend Origins 2019 in Columbus, OH and PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia, PA through a board game organization I am a part of Double Exposure Envoy.  I got to demonstrate games from publishers for the convention attendees and it was so much fun presenting a game one after another to people that were genuinely interested in the game(s).  Through this, I was also able to talk about Extra Life with a number of companies that had never heard of it or have but did’t really know what all it actually was.  It was nice seeing the ins and outs of larger conventions.  It gave me ideas to help grow some of the events that my Extra Life team does throughout the year as well.


The Charity Boardgamer: What do you hope to accomplish this year?

Amanda: This year my personal goal is to raise $1,500 for Extra Life and I’m hoping that our state as a whole can meet or surpass our total from last year which was just shy of $40,000!  I’d also really like to attend Extra Life United which is a gaming convention for Extra Lifers to try and raise money for their local children’s hospital.  It also falls during the CMN Hospital week, where they gather the “Champions” of CMN Hospitals and do lectures on what impact CMN has been doing the past year and how it has grown.  It looks like it is a lot of fun.  Here is to hoping at least.

After this interview, Amanda was given the chance to go to Extra Life United. She will be representing all the children affected by WVU Medicine from April 7th-9th, raising money #forthekids! You also can donate to her 2020 campaign by clicking here.