Jack Vasel, a Symbol of Hope for the Board Gaming Community | Casual Game Revolution

Jack Vasel, a Symbol of Hope for the Board Gaming Community

Jack Vasel Memorial Fund

The fifth annual Jack Vasel Memorial Fund auction is in full swing, and it has already raised over $60,000. The auction is the primary fundraiser for the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund, which provides financial help for people in the board gaming community who face a catastrophic event not of their own making.

The fund’s board of directors have special empathy for families whose children are going through a crisis. This is because the fund’s founder, board game reviewer Tom Vasel, went through this experience himself in November 2010 when his son Jack was born. 

"Jack was born two months early," Tom told me in an interview earlier this year.  "And he was born—I don’t remember when he was born, let’s say the afternoon—it was the middle of the night that my wife called me and said that he might not make it through the day."

Tom drove to South Miami hospital, nearly an hour from his house, as fast as he could.  When he arrived at the hospital room, his wife Laura handed him their little boy.  A heavy sadness gripped Tom’s heart because he felt certain this would be last time he would hold him.

Miraculously, though, Jack made it through the day.  Over the next few days he continued to improve.  The doctors downgraded him from level 3, the most critical level of the NICU, to level 2.

On November 18, 2010, three days after Jack was born, Tom posted on the boardgamegeek.com forums.  He had previously shared on his Dice Tower podcast how excited he was to be having a son, and now he wanted to update the board gaming community what was happening. "Jack is in the hands of the doctors and God at this point," Tom wrote. "We’re all exhausted, but thankful that Jack made it through two more days than expected." 

For the next two months Jack continued to improve. On Christmas he turned 40 days old. Although Tom and his family were disappointed that Jack hadn’t yet been released from the hospital, they were overjoyed that he was doing so well. "The doctors say that he can come home soon," Tom posted on December 28th. "Maybe by New Year’s!"

But Jack never did come home.  Shortly after New Year’s, his condition began to deteriorate.  He passed away on January 24, 2011.

Jack’s death affected Tom deeply: "I’ve lost children before—before birth before—and that’s a hard thing, but I don’t think it’s even close really."

Because of the internet, it didn’t take long for the news of Jack’s death to spread. Tom and his family began to receive sympathy cards from the board gaming community all over the world. Tucked inside many of these cards was money to help cover Jack’s medical bills. "People just didn’t know what to do so they gave us like a pile of money," Tom said. One person even organized an auction on BoardGameGeek.com to raise money for them.  When Tom and his wife added it all up, it amounted to thousands of dollars, more than enough to pay for all of Jack’s medical bills. 

In April of 2011, Tom and his wife used the remaining money to start the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund. "We wanted to pay it forward," Tom explained, "so that if something like this happened again we wouldn’t have to run auctions and stuff, that the money would already be there and we could just help the person right out."

Since then, the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund has given out tens of thousands to help dozens of families in the board gaming community. In a thank you letter posted on the fund’s website (JackVasel.org), one grateful recipient wrote:

My family and I wanted to sincerely thank you all for the extremely generous donations that literally allowed us to financially survive what would have otherwise been a truly devastating summer. My 3-year old son, Noah, a liver transplant patient, became deathly ill this past early June and had to be flown on an emergency flight up to Amplatz Children's hospital in the Twin Cities from our current home in Tampa, Florida....Happily, Noah survived this dangerous time and is now doing so much better and definitely on the road to recovery and better health.  May God Bless you richly and help the fund to grow for others.

This year’s auction to benefit the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund continues until the end of the day Saturday, November 14th. Some of the items being auctioned include a sealed copy of Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary edition, a chance to be co-host for one episode of the Duke of Dice podcast, and a two night stay at Ravenwood Castle in Hocking Hills, Ohio, including full use of the Castle’s board game library.

There are more than 1000 items up for bidding.  Check them all out at BoardGameGeek.com.


Jon Den Houter
Jon Den Houter's picture

You can watch the 2016 Jack Vasel Memorial Auction at Dice Tower Con here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVv3Pu4uuXg