Like many 1990s kids, Cory Toon grew up a gamer. While he appreciates and enjoys video games, Toon and some friends found there is something nice about playing board and card games face-to-face and stepping away from screens and online environments.
Realizing board games, Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and card games brought a sense of camaraderie amongst the group, Toon and his friends wanted to start something that could help people make new friends through a shared interest in gaming. Thus, the Dice Alliance was formed.
“We got to talking about the different games we liked to play and how we’d like to spend more time playing board games and stuff like that. With social media and everything else, it just felt like I was online too much,” Toon, co-founder and CEO of Dice Alliance, said.
Dice Alliance, a nonprofit based in western Kentucky, originally formed about two years ago as a way for adults to meet new people and forge friendships over a common interest in board and tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons. Soon, the group’s mission expanded to lending a helping hand to students in the area, and giving students an activity to meet other students and adult mentors with similar gaming interests.
When Toon would visit his grandparents after school as a child, he and his grandparents played classic board games like Sorry, Aggravation and Chinese checkers. He grew to appreciate how board games could bring people both young and old together. Toon said other Dice Alliance members remembered how their parents, grandparents and teachers introduced them to board games and role-play games like Dungeons and Dragons. The group decided to take these experiences and pass the gaming legacy on to today’s youth.
Dice Alliance started after-school gaming sessions with middle school and high school students at Mayfield Independent Schools around two years ago to help students make friends with people they may not have otherwise interacted with. Prior to COVID-19 restrictions, Toon said as many as 30 kids came to after-school gaming sessions to participate in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, where players role-play as fantasy characters and work together to complete a quest, or play board games with other students.
Toon said Dungeons and Dragons is a hit with a lot of the students Dice Alliance serves.
“A lot of them really enjoyed it because it’s an escape from reality in the same way that a video game is, except when you’re playing Dungeons and Dragons, you can see the smiles on your friends’ faces,” Toon said.
Toon said Dice Alliance serves a variety of students. Some of the students come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and do not have as many opportunities in life, and Toon said Dice Alliance would be there to support those kids and let them know someone is in their corner. Toon said there is also a mix of personalities, and has seen shy, bookish, gifted and talented and athletic students have positive interactions while playing these games together.
The group has been recognized as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit since March of 2020.
Toon said he would eventually like to give out scholarships to some of the students, and give out dice and Christmas presents to its members to show them they have a group of people who are invested in their successes. If Dice Alliance raises enough funds, Toon said he would also like to see the organization establish a permanent space to operate out of, host gaming sessions, serve food and bring in tutors. Toon described the potential space as a “one-stop shop for success.”
“What we really want to do is invest in our futures, which is the youth. We want to make sure we give them every opportunity to success,” Toon said.
In addition to its after-school gaming sessions, Dice Alliance still has events for adult gamers to come together. It’s hosting a gaming event on Saturday, where people can bring classic and new board games, card games, join the group’s Dungeons and Dragons campaign, or play games brought by other visitors. Gamers and those interested in learning new games can go to the Folsomdale Masonic Lodge in Hickory this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and meet members of Dice Alliance.
More information about the group is available at dicealliance.org.