Reflecting on Extra Life 2019: An Interview with Joe Madigan

“The kids. It’s as simple as that. I have 3 of my own with one on the way. I want to know that if something were to happen to them, there would be amazing people out there supporting us in our time of need.”

-Joe Madigan, speaking on why he supports Extra Life.

I had the pleasure speaking with Joe Madigan on November 18th, 2019 about his experience running a charity event for Extra Life, an organization that helps Children’s Miracle Network.

The Charity Boardgamer: Joe, Thanks for talking with me today. Tell us a little about yourself and what got you into gaming.

Joe: I got into gaming as a young child with a pong system my dad brought home when I was about 6. After that, it was Atari, then NES through pretty much every system through my current PS4.

I didn’t really get into the board gaming hobby until about 9 years ago, with my introduction to my first hobby board game, Ghost Stories. I had never played anything like it before in my life; it was cooperative, and difficult, but a ton of fun. At that point, I instantly fell in love with the hobby, and I have my brothers to blame.

Since that point, I’ve been playing board games almost every week; trying new games and expanding my breadth of what I feel comfortable playing.

Now, I’m going to GenCon every year and have gotten my wife and daughters into the hobby as well. I love that I get to see their faces light up when figuring out strategies, especially ones that beat me.

Tables set and ready for the 24 hour event.

The Charity Boardgamer: That is a great feeling as a parent when the little ones have that sense of victory.What has been the go-to game with your family?

Joe: Can’t Stop is always a great game for the kidsWe also have started playing Stuffed Fables as a familyI think that is their favorite game right now. They really like the story aspect and the cooperative nature of the gameeveryone wins or loses as a teammy oldest is almost 10, so I’ve been trying to push her comfort zone with some more complex games

The Charity Boardgamer: Joe, tell me about Extra Life. What got you involved with the charity.

Joe: I first heard about Extra Life from my new neighbor, shortly after we moved into our current house. I was extremely interested by the premise of the charity. Gaming. As I mentioned early, I have been gaming my entire life and this charity felt like the perfect opportunity to do and share what I love to help children and families in need.

I have three beautiful girls and with another child on the way. I want to be able to help however I can. I want to be able to show my girls that you can do amazing things to help people in need, while still having fun.

Games, anyone?

The Charity Boardgamer: How many years have you been doing Extra Life?

Joe: This was my first year doing Extra Life. I had initially set a goal of fundraising $200 for the charity, but by leveraging some advice, I quickly re-set my goal for $500 and raised more than double that amount.

The Charity Boardgamer: Doubled the amount? That is great.How did you accomplish this? What were some of the things that made it a first year success?

Joe: It was great to see and more than I could have hoped for my first year raising money for Extra Life. I’m already looking at things I would change and do better to hopefully double that amount next year.

The Charity Boardgamer: What were some of the goals or incentives you had for those attending the event?What all did you have at the event?

Joe: There were two things that I had that I believe helped make the event successful. First, I was able to secure a grant from Thrivent Financial to provide food and drinks to everyone that attended. The participants donated what they wanted for eating and drinking and all that money went to Extra Life. The second thing I believe made the event successful, was the raffle. I was able to find some great deals on Mansions of Madness and The Game of Thrones Card Game and had a few more games donated by a couple game companies. Those two things alone created more than $600 in donations.

The one other thing that made it successful was I engaged our church to host the event. This gave us a great space to have multiple games going at the same time with no shortage of tables. I’ve already received feedback that they want to host the event again next year.

24 hours of fun while raising money for a good cause.

The Charity Boardgamer: Now, if I’m correct, Game Day for Extra Life is 24 hours. Did you do the full 24 hours?

Joe: I did do 24 hours. I started playing on Friday at midnight and played until after midnight on Saturday. There were 7 people that showed up right at midnight and we played 7th Continent and Just One. Everyone left around 3 am. I was by myself from then until 10 am playing Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Baseball Simulator on my SNES Classic.

The Charity Boardgamer: A Link to the Past is so good!

Joe: One of my all time favorites! That’s when people started to show up. We had about 50 or so different people throughout the day, maxing out around 25 in the afternoon. I thought the hardest part of staying awake was going to be that 4-5 am time period, but it was right around 9 am. Right before people started showing up. I think the anticipation made that part the worst.

The Charity Boardgamer: So did you do anything crazy for hitting your goal?

Joe: Not this year. We have baby #4 due any day now, and my wife didn’t want me to do anything crazy. We will be having family pictures done in a few weeks and wanted to ensure that I would look normal for the picturesAt least as normal as I can look.

Next year, all bets are off. Dyed hair, shaved beard, who knows?

The Charity Boardgamer: So tell me what was one thing that made this worth doing. Why should others support Extra Life?

Joe: The kids. It’s as simple as that. I have 3 of my own with one on the way. I want to know that if something were to happen to them, there would be amazing people out there supporting us in our time of need.

The Charity Boardgamer: Joe, Thanks again for telling us about your experience with Extra Life, and congratulations on the new baby on the way!

Joe: Thanks, Chris. I appreciate everything you do for the hobby and for charity.

To find out more about Extra Life, go to Extra Life’s Website. If you want to raise money for Extra Life, please do so. It is a great cause.

Joe and the Madigan family with their newest addition.

Interview with Sarah Trager

Sarah and Nic Trager at Tantrum Con 2019

“I am humbled and convicted when I consider my extreme blessings, especially in the face of such poverty.” 

Sarah Trager, Tournament Director at Double Exposure

Sarah Trager and I spoke with each other about the hobby and Compassion International on September 3rd, 2019.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Sarah, thank you so much for meeting with me today. Tell us about yourself and what brought you into the board game hobby.

Sarah: Hi, Chris! Thanks for having me. I love board and card games and have since childhood. Growing up we played the classics – Monopoly, Sorry, Trouble and Clue. One of my favorite parts of my board games origin story is this: my dad was in the military until I was sixteen. He was away a lot but sent lots of letters and little gifts while he was gone. He used to record himself reading my favorite books, or just talking to us, and send us the tapes to listen to. He once sent me a game of Trouble, and promised we’d play when he got home. So my love of games started as a kid, and it grew as I did. My first semester of college a friend taught me how to play Settlers of Catan and I was instantly in love. It’s still my all-time favorite game.

TheCharityBoardGamer: How long have you been in the hobby?

Sarah: The hobby – about twelve years I guess. I’ve been in the industry for about four.

Sarah teaching members of a Sunday night game group.

TheCharityBoardGamer: What do you do in the industry?

Sarah: I am the Tournament Director at Double Exposure, which is a North American-wide company which helps game designers and publishers create, market, and support their games.

TheCharityBoardGamer: What is your favorite game currently?

Sarah: Settlers of Catan is my always, all-time favorite. Recently, I’ve been enjoying Clank!, Space Park, and Raccoon Tycoon.

Enjoying an afternoon playing Splendor.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Any particular designer or publisher that you enjoy the most?

Sarah: John Clair (Mystic Vale, Space Base…) puts out consistently solid work that I enjoy. Gil Hova is brilliant. My husband has started to design games and I am not only immensely proud of him, but also genuinely enjoying his creations.

TheCharityBoardGamer: So tell me about Compassion International. What is it and what do they do?

Sarah: Compassion is an international program that helps kids around the world who suffer from extreme poverty. They help by providing food, clothing, medical care, schooling, professional training, emergency/disaster relief and much more. I’ve been a part of it for the last thirteen years.

Rehma, age four. Sponsored by Sarah through Compassion International

Sarah: I “adopted” a kid – Isaac. I found out about the program in college. A representative came and shared pictures and stories of the children and families and communities that the program touched. I didn’t have a lot of money but knew that I wanted to be Jesus’s hands and feet to one of those kids. I signed up and never looked back. Isaac grew up and moved outside of the range of the program in his country, so I was assigned another child. I have been blessed to know four different kids throughout my time in the program so far.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Have you done any special activities or helped the charity in a certain way?

Sarah: Not directly. Sponsors can go on trips to meet their kids, but they are expensive and I’ve always felt the money could be better used in a different way. One of the things that I hope had a big impact (I won’t actually know this side of heaven) is that, when working for AEG (the publisher behind games like Point Salad, Mystic Vale, and Space Base), I was asked about my favorite charity because AEG makes monthly donations to different charities – and I recommended Compassion International. They went ahead and chose to support Compassion and I hope that made a huge impact. 

A more direct way I have been able to be impactful is in the individual lives of the children I have sponsored and continue to sponsor. Compassion encourages sponsors to develop relationships with their kids by exchanging letters, cards and photos. I have been so blessed by these relationships over the years and am so thankful for the different perspectives on life and faith the kids have shared with me.     

This is Raul, age ten from Brazil, also sponsored through Compassion International

Sarah: Sponsors can choose to send additional money for their child’s birthday and/or Christmas. This money goes directly to the child and their family…I have received photos of my kids surrounded by all the clothing, food and special gifts. It makes me cry every time. At first I was sad that the money wasn’t used to support my American-style idea of Christmas or birthday – cake and toys. The kids and their families use the money to buy food, clothing and shoes. I am humbled and convicted when I consider my extreme blessings, especially in the face of such poverty.  Sponsors can also send extra support for specific needs of a community. Compassion offers a catalog of items that people, sponsors or not, can purchase for communities all over the world. The items range from soccer balls and Bibles to livestock, lifesaving medical equipment, and wells which provide clean water to whole villages.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Sarah, If someone wanted to hear more or find out more information about Compassion International, where could they go?


TheCharityBoardGamer: Sarah, thank you for sharing your time with us today. I appreciate you as a friend and as part of the board game family.

Sarah: Likewise. Thanks for highlighting Compassion International!

Interview with Jennifer England

Saving Food, so others can eat.

“We believe good food belongs to people not landfills…”

Jennifer England, Senior Programs Director, 412 Food Rescue

I had the privilege of speaking with Jennifer England on August 26th, 2019 to discuss the hobby and about 412 Food Rescue, a program that started in the Pittsburgh area.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Jennifer, thank you so much for meeting with me today. Tell us about yourself and what brought you into the board game hobby.

Jennifer: Well, I came to board gaming late. When I started dating my husband 6 years ago, he told me he loved board games. I was EXACTLY the person that I saw mentioned on a board game thread a few days ago. I said, “Oh I love board games. I like Clue, Life and Scrabble.”

My cousins played D&D and would never let me play with them. They would let me play Risk but I HATED that game and Monopoly. I think had they let me play D&D I’d be larping by now. I would have been heavy into games early on.

Rocking around the Christmas, playing a board game.

Jennifer: As it was, it was my husband who eventually introduced meI played Ticket to Ride and a few others, and my reaction was, “These are fine,” but nothing great. Then we played Agricola and I was hooked. I was addicted immediately, and since then I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into the hobby. I tend to deep dive into hobbies to begin with, and now that my kids are grown and I’m married to my best friend, we play A LOT of games. I think we are over 800 plays for the year. My preference is a chunky Euro game, not light games, but I’ll play those too. I had no idea that board games could be what they are. It’s such a joy to discover. I love the challenge and the thinkyness (Is that a word???) of games. I really get bored with tv, and books are so solitary. 

Jennifer and her husband at Origins 2019.

TheCharityBoardGamer: I think thinkyness is a word… and you can’t knock Clue. What is your favorite game currently?

Jennifer: My favorite game of all time is Gloomhaven, but we haven’t played for a while. 

Currently my list of favorites are probably:

  • Everdell
  • Puerto Rico
  • The Gallerist
  • Museum
  • Agricola (Always!)
Looks like a great game is going down!

TheCharityBoardGamer: What has been on the table recently?

Jennifer: We just played Gugong and LOVED it. and have played I think five games of Burgle Brothers in a row trying to beat that game.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Any designer or publisher that you enjoy the most?

Jennifer: Uwe. He gets me. He really gets me, but we also just played our first Lacerda (the Gallerist) and it was our jam. We bought Lisboa at Origins. Oh, I forgot to mention Bunny Kingdom. That’s like crack to me. 

TheCharityBoardGamer: So tell me about 412 Food Rescue. How did it start?

Jennifer: 412 Food Rescue was the brain child of our Co-founders Leah Lizarando and Gisele Fetterman. It was designed to bridge the gap between the fact that 40% of the food we produce is thrown away while 1 in 7 are hungry. I knew Leah and when I expressed excitement for this idea she asked me to help her operationalize it.

We believe good food belongs to people not landfills, and to be honest, it was like a logic puzzle or a game to create. How do you rescue a million pounds of food 100 lbs at a time? How do you distribute 10,000 pounds of produce that has to be eaten IMMEDIATELY? How do you do all of that economically?

We created an app that mobilizes our volunteers so we don’t have to rely on economies of scale. We can, with the touch of a button, reach thousands of volunteers to ask them to pick up a box of food and take it to a nonprofit where it can be used. We partnered with nontraditional distribution partners, organizations whose main mission was not food distribution, but whose constituents are food insecure. They know that to accomplish their mission they need to make sure the basic need of food is met.

Loaded up with food.

Jennifer: We work with housing authorities, subsidized day cares, veterans programs, job training programs, really any organization where there are people who are food insecure. Though we didn’t anticipate it, it turns out that this helps remove barriers to food access another way as well. Imagine the mother who is working two jobs and taking her kids to daycare on the bus. She doesn’t have time to take another bus to a grocery store or a pantry, but if she can pick up a bag of healthy groceries when she picks up her child it helps on both fronts.

We started in 2015 and in 4 years we’ve distributed nearly 7 million pounds of food to over 600 non-profit partners. Now we are supporting organizations in other cities who want to use our technology and our model to do the same thing in their area.

Continuing the efforts to help those in need.

TheCharityBoardGamer: For those who may ask, what is food insecure?

Jennifer: Food insecurity means that during a given month there will be days where you can’t feed yourself or your family. You don’t know where your next meal is coming from. It can also mean that you have no access to healthy food. People who live in food swamps for example face all sorts of added health issues.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Where can one go to learn more and support 412 Food Rescue?

Jennifer: . We have sister organizations in Cleveland, Philadelphia and Prince William County in Virginia.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Jennifer, thank you for sharing this with us today. I wish you continued success!

An Interview with David Seim

” I wanted to help, to do my part. So I said well, let’s do something!” 

-David Seim, Founder of Meeple-a-thon

David Seim spoke with me on August 22nd about Meeple-a-thon, a charity event to help the homeless youth in Kansas City, MO. Meeple-a-thon is in its third year.

David (Center) with his team for this year’s Meeple-a-thon

TheCharityBoardGamer: David, thank you so much for meeting with me today. Tell us about yourself and what brought you into the board game hobby.

David Seim: Thank you for reaching out today, Chris. It truly is my pleasure. I was a huge video game player. World of Warcaft, and Playstations and such. I had a buddy who invited me to one of his friends board game nights. He chose Battlestar Galactica, explained the rules, and I was mesmerized at how complex and simple the game was. I’m a huge sci fi nerd, so it just hit all of the chords with me. Working together knowing that someone was a Cylon..or many people were, it was awesome! So my buddies and I bought that game, I introduced them to it, and then we just kept going. Star Wars Imperial Assault was next, then Time Stories, Unlocks and all sorts of genres and games. We just enjoyed hanging out and being together while having a great adventure together. We all unplugged and sat around the table to enjoy each others company face to face. It was awesome!

TheCharityBoardGamer: How long have you been in the hobby?

David: We have been getting together for 5 or 6 years now. Seems longer than that though. Lol.

TheCharityBoardGamer: What is your favorite game currently?

David: I normally would have immediately said Gloomhaven. I love Co-op games. However, I just played Wingspan for the first time last Friday. That game was amazing. We had a 4-player game and the winner had 76 points (not me). Two of us had 75 points (me), and last place had 74. That was incredible! I cant wait to play it again. So I will say Wingspan.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Tell me about Meeple-a-thon. How did it get started?

David: So I work for a 501C3 organization called Hillcrest Transitional Housing. Three years ago, we were asked to change some of our housing into dormatory like houses, as there was an overwhelming need for housing for homeless youth.

It really struck me that:

  • There was such a need for homeless youth.
  • That there wasn’t enough help for it.

As soon as we opened our facilities, we were full and needed to start looking into expanding, knowing that it would cost substantial amounts of money to expand and perhaps purchase new facilities. I wanted to help, to do my part. So I said well, let’s do something! 

Meeple-a-thon 2017

Meeple-a-thon was created ! A 24-hour board game marathon to help raise money for the homeless youth in Kansas City! In a couple weeks I put together a very small event, we held it in the Thrift Shop I work at and we raised 700 or so dollars. I was pleased, but knew I could do better. Last year I started 8 months out, hit up local FLGS shops, asked for donations, emailed and Facebook messaged companies asking for donations for our raffle we were going to hold. We were able to raise $5,616.00 last year. I was beyond amazed at what was accomplished. After last year I was completely burned out though. So I asked for help, I created a roundtable of people willing to help me. The team this year has put in so much work helping to grow our event and it is my hope that we will hit our goal of raising $10,000.00 this year!

Meeple-a-thon 2018

TheCharityBoardGamer: When is this year’s Meeple-a-thon?

David: Meeple-a-thon 2019 is September 20th starting at 6pm and goes straight through to the 21st ending at 6pm. Now keep in mind, I set up last year all day Friday… didn’t sleep a wink the night before so for me…its like 48 hours of sleep deprived awesomeness!

Meeple-a-thon 2018

TheCharityBoardGamer: What are some of the events you have lined up for this year?

David: Oh Chris, I am so excited for what we have on tap. We have:

  • Mini-painting contests for adults and kiddos
  • Ticket to Ride Tournament
  • War Cry Demonstration
  • Keyforge Tournament
  • Dinosaur Tea Party
  • One Night Ultimate Werewolf
  • Twilight Imperium
  • Catan Tournament
  • Kill Team Tournament
  • Connect Four Tournament
  • Free Pizza from Sarpinos on Friday Night
  • Free Artisan Waffles from Cardboard Corner on Saturday Morning
  • Free Game Library to check out games
  • Something for EVERYONE!!!!
Enjoying some Sarpinos at Meeple-a-thon 2018

TheCharityBoardGamer: That’s Great! Where can people go to learn more and contribute to the charity?

David: Last year, at peak, we had over 150 people in the same room. I am hoping for a couple things: to double that, and to outgrow the space we are in. It’s a great problem to have. The best way to see all the events and sign up for them is on our Facebook page. It is wethemeeple, but also follow us on Instagram @meeple_a_thon, or our website! Also, anyone can make a donation by texting ‘MEEPLE’ to 44321.

TheCharityBoardGamer: This is awesome! David, thank you again for your time and I hope you have a successful event!

David: Thank you, Chris, for your time and inquiries. I really appreciate you taking the time!

This Year’s Poster for Meeple-a-thon

My love for games and charity

Building a tower of fun with Rhino Hero Super Battle at Causeacon, a convention where the proceeds go to charity.

“The games are nothing without the people at the table.”

Back in High School, I remember the joy I had playing ridiculously long games of Monopoly with my friends on a Saturday afternoon. When college came, I left board games and the hobby, not knowing instead the industry had more to offer than just Clue, Monopoly and Scrabble.

Things get a little Wonky at our Extra Life Event on ITTD

Eighteen years later, I was invited to a board game night at a local church. I was given the chance to play One Night Ultimate Werewolf. This reminded me of playing Mafia when I played in the orchestra, going to events and killing random people in the name of fun. The next game was my first cooperative game. It was Pandemic and it was great. I had never played a game where I wasn’t trying to dominate and win against another person. Last was Catan. My wife had mentioned playing this before, but I had not played it. It was official. I was hooked to the board game hobby.

Ziler Hawkins, one of the children supported by Extra Life and Children’s Miracle Network, playing a game of Fibber.

Months later, I started an Instagram and was approached by Non-Zero Sum Games. Patrick invited me to be a part of his Extra Life team. I did my first year and was invested. I loved the fact that I could be a part of something that benefitted others and enjoy the games I played. Also at this time I joined Envoy and started demonstrating games for them and publishers. This helped me become more involved with the community.

Some of the most amazing people in the Board Game Community at Origins 2019

A year later and the board game community has been amazing. I have had the chance to help different charity events, meet fellow Instagrammers, work with publishers and raise money for great causes.

Grandfather and Grandson playing Drop it at Causeacon

So now I am working on this site to show the love for the games with my family, the journey through it all and highlight the good that our board game community can do. Once a week you will see an interview about a member of the board game community and the charity they believe in. If you like the charity, you will be able to go to the link to contribute. Together, we can do great things!

Welcome to The Charity Boardgamer Page

Board Game Blogs, Family Reviews and Charity Interviews

Aren’t there enough Blogs and reviewers out there in the board game community already?” was the question I asked when I decided to get involved. I asked it a lot. People had asked if I was going to go this route and I thought, “No,” but then we thought about the charity side of what our community can do, we decided to look further into this. Well, with the encouragement of my family and friends in the board game community, we are jumping in the water.

So what will you see on this site?

  • Thoughts on board games from not one, but all five of us. We will be putting up a review with thoughts from Abigail, 13, Beth, Chris(me), Daniel, 11, and Elijah, 8. The games are only as good as those you play with, and we play with them a lot.
  • There will be blogs on upcoming games, thoughts about moments and the board game culture.
  • The focus is to show the good of our community and what we can do if we work together. If we can come together at a table for a game, we can do the same for a good cause.

Enjoy the site and we look forward to sharing our family’s thoughts on board games and the good we can do together.