All the volunteers helping MagiKids

Making Magic Happen for MagiKids

Jason KrellCommunity

Twenty Wizards of the Coast employees sat in an assembly line at Card Kingdom’s Ballard Campus, sorting cards and packing boxes for a few hours on a sunny Seattle afternoon. Some sorted commons from uncommons or separated out basic land cards. Others pulled card sleeves and deck boxes together for each of the 100 kits the volunteers constructed.

In that time, the volunteers helped around 2,000 children by making Magic: The Gathering more accessible. According to Product Architect and pro hall-of-famer Mike Turian, making the decision to lend a hand was easy.

“What’s better than coming out and volunteering, getting together with coworkers, and building kits for the game we all love?” he asked.

Mike Turian sorts cards for MagiKids.
Mike Turian sorts cards for MagiKids. | Provided by David Peveto

Turian and his fellow co-workers volunteered on behalf of the non-profit MagiKids, which strives to support the intellectual health of children by teaching them Magic: The Gathering. While they had help that Friday, the organization normally assembles and ships the kits to boys and girls clubs, schools and libraries with help from Card Kingdom.

At the same time, MagiKids Educational Lead and middle school science teacher Kelly Schrandt regularly teaches classes for beginners, intermediate players and parents who want to learn alongside their children. Schrandt said he always enjoys seeing participants grow throughout the process, using past experiences and applying them to new strategies.

“One thing that also stands out to me is you have a quiet kid come in, and they’re interacting, they’re having a good time,” Schrandt added. “Then the parent comes in and says ‘I haven’t seen them smile in the last few days.’”

MagiKids also provides space for children and young adults who might not have a place in sports or other clubs. And throughout every class, Schrandt said he always emphasizes understanding the game and looking to improve instead of winning or losing. That also goes a long way toward building participants’ confidence.

James Schrandt and Don Maddock stuff boxes for MagiKids.
James Schrandt and Don Maddock stuff boxes for MagiKids. | Photo by David Peveto

That common experience is one even Turian experienced when starting high school himself. After moving to a new district without many friends around him, an introduction to Magic changed the trajectory of his life.

“All of a sudden, I saw how powerful it was playing Magic and making friends,” Turian said.

At the same time, he also recognized the many skills and disciplines embodied by Magic. Turian explained how reading skills are used and sharpened constantly when playing, and math is always required during combat (especially for blockers). Beyond that, deck building uses critical thinking and in game decisions are often supported by statistics. Finally, even those who don’t want to play Magic can appreciate the artistry that goes into making each individual card.

In addition, fellow volunteer and Engagement and Philanthropy Specialist Jennifer Huggins pointed out that Magic also encourages taking a break from the screens that constantly surround most children.

“The other thing is, it’s an analog game,” Huggins said. “So you put your phone away and you face one person and have conversations with people, and it’s interactive — which a lot of other games don’t really offer.”

Crystal Villamarzo and Michelle Wu construct the boxes for MagiKids kits.
Crystal Villamarzo and Michelle Wu construct the boxes for MagiKids kits. | Photo by David Peveto

That’s why Huggins said she was so excited to help connect Wizards of the Coast with MagiKids. In addition, she also stressed the importance of supporting everyone with an interest in Magic whenever possible.

“We wouldn’t have a community if we didn’t do these types of things,” Huggins said. “Magic is a community, and we need to make sure we’re fostering the people that are a part of it. That means kids, that means underrepresented communities — and following through on what we believe in is important to us.”

Still, Huggins stressed that Wizards of the Coast giving time to MagiKids specifically was intentional. 

“We believe in supporting our partners, and we select organizations that we think reflect our values,” Huggins said. “Then we support them because we believe in them.”

As for how Wizards of the Coast discovered MagiKids, Lyla Ross said she heard the company was looking to do some youth programming. And as the Executive Director of Gamers Engaged, an engagement network that connects the games industry with nonprofit organizations, she told Huggins all about how Wizards could help children in need with a bit of employee time.

Soon after hearing about MagiKids and Card Kingdom’s decision to offer labor and shipping for the construction of these kits, Wizards of the Coast donated five pallets of cards. The next step was Ross helping Huggins set up this volunteering event.

Lyla Ross speaks to volunteers from Wizards of the Coast.
Lyla Ross speaks to volunteers from Wizards of the Coast. | Photo by David Peveto

“This is a perfect case example of what Gamers Engaged is meant to do,” Ross said. “We want to work with game industry companies to help them increase their philanthropic efforts. And that can sometimes be raising money, but what’s even more impactful is the time they put in with volunteerism and engaging.”

Card Kingdom has seen that impact first hand, according to Vice President Bob Woods. Gamers Engaged, by bringing the company together with nonprofits like MagiKids, helps the company better become a trusted platform for players of all skill levels and experiences.

“For students who are new to Magic: The Gathering and are future trading card players, collectors and traders, this partnership between MagiKids, Wizards of the Coast and Card Kingdom provides an easy-to-learn set of tools to start their journey,” Woods said. “I’m proud that we’re opening up new communities to this lifelong gaming experience by donating our time, talent and treasure to this worthy program.”

Going forward, everyone involved said they plan to make these kit-constructing volunteer sessions a monthly occasion. Doing so would already increase the number of kits available for those interested, but Ross said she thinks the volunteers could go beyond just 100 kits at a time considering how efficiently everyone worked. And with more support, MagiKids can help more and more children grow by learning Magic.

If you are a teacher or mentor looking to apply for a MagiKids kit, please visit the MagiKids Teacher Resource Center. If you represent a business or organization looking to partner with or sponsor MagiKids, please use their business contact form. You can find Gamers Engaged on most social networks @gamersengaged.