Middle School Tabletop Game Club

$305 of $1,000 goal

Raised by 7 people in 8 months
Created May 12, 2018
Five years ago, during my second year of teaching at South Park Middle School, I went to my principal and asked to run a Tabletop Game Club. I felt this was important, because so many of our students come from diverse backgrounds and home lives. We are not from an affluent community and  students' personal lives run the gamut beyond the walls of our school. So I thought, at the very least, I could provide a new space for interested students while developing a healthy hobby. Thankfully my principal is open to offering students as many opportunities as possible and without missing a beat, said yes.

The club started small. I had a large black wooden box on wheels with shelves and I created a game vault to store games in the back room of my classroom. I started by bringing in some of my own games and I would introduce them to students who would come to club.  Over the years, however, we've built up a collection of games dedicated to the club. It's not large and the games in it are mostly small ones that work well during the lunch hour, but I'm proud of it overall.  Eventually my husband began to come in and teach games as well and it would become the responsibility of the veteran club members to teach newcomers games. It's not a perfect system and sometimes there are hiccups but it has worked very nicely for the most part.


Immediately after starting, I knew I wanted to try to get my students involved in a local game convention, so I had some club t-shirts made and we were invited to teach games in the Family Room at the convention, representing our school and club with pride. 

During this first year we were able to sell candy bars for 50% profit for our club and I used it to pay for games and the t-shirts and even an end of year pizza party. Since then, with new child health laws, we weren't allowed to sell candy bars in the school for fundraising anymore and the other fundraising opportunities either required too many people that we didn't have (restaurants need x-amount of people for a fundraising night) or the percentage to take in was too low. Plus our school does so many pizza, cup, and mixed fundraising that no one wanted to take home another fundraising packet.

Sadly I gave up on trying to raise money. I didn't stand a chance with writing grants when competing against people building stronger classrooms for student learning. At game conventions I would mention that I'm a teacher with a game club and I was able to receive some free games to add to our collection.  A few very generous parents bought us a game or two. One parent even gave us a $50 Amazon gift certificate to cover a game my club kids had been begging to buy. The vast majority of expenditure into the club comes from mine and my husband's own pockets, however. 

As the years went on, though, I felt I had created something wonderful! I was so confident I presented what I'd developed at a GenCon Trade Day Event (see the presentation here ).  The biggest question I was asked, though, regarded funding. People recommended connecting with local game stores, but I found out this year that the district won't help support our events if they are related to a profit-based company or organization , even though they're only offering us free hosting space.  

This past year our club has grown larger than it ever has before and we've put ourselves out into the community to a degree I had never even considered when I first started. It's been so successful that my aspirations for the future are high and my hopes are bright. 

Which is why I come to make this fundraiser now.

What our club does:
     ~ We teach kids and families games at local Game Conventions, which helps students become involved in the greater game community outside of school.
     ~ Develop an understanding and engagement in the larger gaming community so that when they leave our school, they can continue their passion.
     ~ We share and teach games at events hosted by schools in the Oshkosh Area School District.

    ~ Students learn games that build teamwork and communication skills.
     ~ We provide a safe social environment for students to come together. We consider ourselves a family and I have seen that connection carry on beyond my classroom and beyond their time at my school.
     ~ We improve the mind through the challenges of games.
     ~ We are open to all students at our school everyday, not just a select group of kids.

We are not an Oshkosh Area School District Funded Club.  
Everything we offer comes out of pocket from the adult volunteers and occasional donations from the community.

All donations go to:
     ~ Buying new games.
     ~ Replacing damaged or overplayed games.
     ~ Covering new t-shirts, lanyards, and other school branded gamer gear.
     ~ Promotional materials to get students involved in the club.
     ~Running RPG Events.
     ~ Attending local events (We're hoping to branch out and are thinking about attending cons that would require badges, transportation, and potentially lodging). 
     ~ Hosting our own monthly gaming lock-ins.
     ~ Developing our own community events (promotion, play-to-win items, etc.).
     ~ Yearly Participation Pins (Enamel D20s in red, white, and black, which are our school colors).
     ~ Graduation Game Collector Starter Bag (These are for our graduating 8th graders and will include a gamer tote with a favorite game the club member played over their 3 years, as well as the bag to carry games in, so that as they leave us, they have a start out in the real world. We're working on other swag to add to encourage them to keep on gaming as they go off into high school and beyond.)

(A photo from our March Lock-In.)

Any donations, no matter the amount, help us to keep this club going and growing. The kids generally pay for their food during cons and lock-ins minus special treats and the end-of-year pizza party that I provide.  They also  buy their shirts at the beginning of the year, which were originally purchased with fundraising money from our first year. However, I spend at minimum $300 a year out of pocket to help our club run and give the kids the best experience possible.  On a teacher's salary (which also goes to stocking my classroom with materials), it puts a bit of a dent in our personal finances. If I receive enough funding, I want to expand beyond basic game purchases to the Graduation Gift Bags (a new idea), event promotional materials (I've been pretty minimalist with that in the past, but hope to print color flyers and postcards for events.), and transportation cost for cons outside of Oshkosh.

So please help us continue to give these kids a quality place to keep building a community, learning about games, and, essentially, creating a family that they can still be a part of, no matter what happens beyond the walls of our gaming world.

Thank you for your help.

If you are a gamer, we also accept game donations in leiu of monetary contributions.

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Update 12
Posted by Sarah Bonilla
2 months ago
Our club has been hosting a District Family Game Night. We've been pushing for a sense of community beyond the walls of just one school. It is hard going and difficult to get promotion. We have so many amazing volunteers, as well as our students in the club who are excited to share their passion for tabletop games with others.

Recently we attended our local game convention, N.E.W. Game here in Oshkosh. The club members hosted games and also participated in games. They sought to team-build by doing an Escape Room and playing the Artemis Simulator.

Our club numbers are in a fluctuation zone as the year continues forward. The dedication of a large group of students, though, is still strong and as we head into this latter part of the year, our club Lock-Ins are going to be rockin'!

I just want to remind everyone that our club funds go directly into the club. It covers the cost of the much needed materials (such as the new club shelves we bought), as well as purchasing new games to add to the collection. At the end of the year we hope to have funds to send our 8th graders off with a game bag, setting them up for a future of continued gaming.

Our ultimate goal is to eventually be able to afford attending a mid-year game convention outside of our Oshkosh location. This would include the cost of badges, lodging, and transportation. I can't even begin to plan it unless I know that it can even be a reality.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far and helped to spread the word. A heartfelt thank you to those who have donated new and used games to our club. They are much loved and much appreciated.

Please help us spread the word and thank you, again.
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Update 11
Posted by Sarah Bonilla
5 months ago
With our Summer Junior Gamers Club 2018 coming to a close, I wanted to celebrate by sharing some generous donations that came our way.

El Dorado - We played this at one of our lock-ins and really enjoyed it. Our donor was there teaching it to us and clearly saw how much we liked it. Thank you HR!

Kingdomino - It's the big one! Thank goodness I'm finally dedicating my entire back room to the game club! Our local game shop where we hosted summer camp gave us a copy. We love them so much for all their support and smiles.

Hedbanz, Bananagrams, and Machi Koro - My principal was doing some cleaning and set these aside for us. Great additions to the club, especially for our upcoming hosting event... oh no... I've said too much. More on this in another update, but our club is about to become district famous!

Thank you everyone for your generosity!
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Update 10
Posted by Sarah Bonilla
6 months ago
We've been working on a wishlist through BoardGameGeek and here is our starting list. We accept all game donations, even if they're not on the list.

Thank you for your support! Please continue to spread the word.

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Update 9
Posted by Sarah Bonilla
7 months ago
I arrived at work today to find a note from one of my game members in my mailbox. What she shares with me is exactly why I run this game club.

This is for real everyone and your help really goes beyond just buying games. It's making a difference.
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$305 of $1,000 goal

Raised by 7 people in 8 months
Created May 12, 2018
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7 months ago
Heath Ruetten
8 months ago
James Singleton
8 months ago
Meghan Raebel
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8 months ago
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