At its best, the tabletop gaming community can be wonderful, coming together to discover new adventures, forge new alliances, and bring out the hero or heroine in all who come to play. Three years ago, the Extra Life Twin Cities Guild in Minnesota worked with the local non-profit tabletop gaming convention Con of the North to have a presence at their event. Over the years that relationship grew into something that brings figures from across the tabletop community in Minnesota together to raise money for the kids.
The Extra Life Twin Cities Guild president, Troy Cleland, took point on organizing the event. As with past years, Con of the North graciously gave Extra Life table space to come and talk with curious con-goers about how they can help sick and injured kids in hospitals by playing games. This year, however, Troy was able to bring the convention deeper into the Extra Life fold. “[Because] they donate our table to us, it is no cost to us to be there,” Troy explained, “so we can focus on promotional items and materials.” Being freed from worrying about booth space allowed Troy to coordinate with Con of the North to launch additional fundraising endeavors across the wider convention.
One of these fundraising attempts came courtesy of Gen Con, the largest tabletop convention in North America. Con of the North dubbed the event Cardhalla which has people building impressive structures out of playing cards and then donating money at the end of the convention to knock them down. Cardhalla made use of cards donated by the local company Prolific Games, which supplied around 600 decks of playing cards to serve as construction materials. This had never been done before at Con of the North and managed to raise about $150 for Extra Life. Con-goers enjoyed the event quite a bit and there’s little doubt as to whether it will be returning again next year.
That wasn’t the only event that Troy was able to coordinate, however. One of the most interesting events occurred in Con of the North’s vendor hall. A group of artists called The Long and Short of It had decided to hold a miniature painting contest at the convention and then hit upon an idea to raise money for Extra Life by holding a competition between the organizers, the titular Long and Short. They engaged in a battle all throughout the convention weekend in a no-holds-barred match of skill. As they progressed, onlookers were able to donate money for which model they thought was the best and the model that raised the most money would be declared the victor. One of the artists chose to create the many-headed dragon Tiamat from Dungeons & Dragons, complete with lighting effects customized into the figurine, while the other tackled a Warhammer 40K mech that he constructed entirely out of household recycleables and garbage. Tiamat managed to clinch the victory, but the close rivalry between the two wound up raising over $460 for the Extra Life Twin Cities Guild hospital, Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. The Long and Short of It had such a good time competing and raising money that they plan to bring the event back with some expanded features for Con of the North 2020.
The main event benefiting Extra Life at this year’s Con of the North had to be the involvement of D&D Adventurers League for the second year running. They hosted a silent auction with items they provided themselves, a prize drawing, and more. However, the epic event they hosted on the Saturday of the con proved to be one of the most interesting initiatives they undertook. Players who were participating in the epic event could purchase in-game items and rolls by donating to Extra Life. Guild president Troy Cleland was on hand to MC the prize drawing and silent auction held before the epic event. All told, D&D Adventurers League was able to raise about $1600. “This is the second year they have done this for us,” said Cleland of the amazing effort the league had brought to raising money for Extra Life, “[D&D Adventurers League] didn’t disappoint at all.”
Con of the North being a gaming convention, it seemed only natural for Extra Life to bring dice to the event. Working with the local children’s hospital, the Twin Cities Extra Life Guild was able to acquire over 150 six-sided and ten-sided die to use as a means of attracting curious con-goers and also raise a bit more money for Extra Life. A $1 donation conferred a d6 while a $2 donation got the donor a d10. The D&D room also made use of the dice for their in-game purchases to raise money. By the end of the weekend, the Twin Cities Extra Life Guild had managed to pull in over $140 with dice alone. Some people came by multiple times to donate more money for more dice, gushing about how much they loved using dice for a good cause, donating more than the suggested $1 or $2.
In total, the Twin Cities Extra Life Guild was able to raise around $2,350 to support the sick and injured kids at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare while also spreading awareness in the tabletop gaming community about how people can play and help kids at the same time. Troy Cleland played a huge part in bringing it all together and deserves so much credit for forming the ongoing relationship between Con of the North and the Twin Cities Extra Life Guild. Minnesota’s conventions don’t draw the large crowds of a PAX, a Gen Con, or an E3, but there’s a lot of heart and passion in these smaller cons that can really bolster the support local hospitals experience. All it takes is the effort necessary to expose these tight-knit communities to Extra Life’s core message of compassion and play.
Here’s to another Con of the North… For The Kids.
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!