It’s a common thing to hear about people searching for meaning – for their life’s purpose, or the purpose of their work. For a small group of loyal Buffy fans in Iowa, purpose came knocking when we least expected it!
In 2004, my brother and sister R.J. and Holly Boehmer opened a small game and comic shop in Waterloo, Iowa, called Pandora’s Box. R.J. brought with him experience he had gained working for the games division at Score Entertainment. While at Score, R.J. helped playtest and promote the Buffy the Vampire Slayer collectible card game (you can find him listed in the back of the “Class of ‘99” rule book, and many still know him as WatcherX in the community). Holly became an avid fan and competitive player of the CCG, so as part of the opening weekend and launch event for the shop the two invited players from across the country and the Buffy CCG community to visit the shop and to play. Folks flew in, drove in and rallied, bringing their slayers and vampires and favorite character decks along. Thus – the first unofficial “Weekend o’ Buffy” was born.
When R.J. stepped down as co-owner and manager to pursue other creative ventures, I – the third Boehmer sibling – took up the helm. As sisters and co-owners, we quickly grew a loyal gathering of locals who also loved all things Buffy and were eager to continue the annual celebration. In 2005, the name “Weekend O’ Buffy” was launched and the players kept rolling in. The weekend was filled with a half-dozen Buffy tournaments, all with different themes and rules. We played late into the night, even until the sun came up, while music from our favorite scenes in Sunnydale filled the air, and episodes flashed by on the big screen in the front room. Over the years we dabbled with the Buffy board game, Buffy trivia and even Buffy BINGO. It was epic and fun-filled Buffy love.
In one of the early years, a conversation was struck with player, friend and Buffy CCG Watcher Dave Gerspach. Dave had been helping with and attending an event in Illinois called “Slay-A-Thon” where people loved Buffy just as hard as we did, but they were putting that love and energy toward a great cause: raising funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Little did we know until the conversation started, one of our regular players WAS a wish kid! It was a no brainer. We were instantly inspired and knew that all future Weekend O’ Buffy events would be more than just fun – we had a mission! We started by including a sealed deck event and sending all proceeds from that in as our donation “from the Buffy CCG community”. We expanded to not just one, but two Buffy-themed events per year (Weekend O’ Buffy in the spring, Welcome to the Harvest in the fall). Our contributions were just a few hundred dollars, but always backed by love and a hope that our little community rallying together to pitch in might inspire others and help Slay-A-Thon continue to grow and thrive. But as Joss Whedon likes to teach us over and over (and over and over) again – sometimes the things we love most are gone too soon. Pandora’s Box closed in 2007.
But did that stop our little Buffy-loving group from getting together and continuing to do our best to raise a little moolah for the amazing wish kids that Slay-a-thon was helping? Not a chance in Hellmouth.
From fall 2007 to spring 2009, our loyal group of 22 Buffy CCG fans crammed into my 750 square foot apartment and played our hearts out. Holly kept score (our official Watcher!) and came up with amazing new formats to keep players engaged, and the Buffy CCG community even developed a series of “dream cards” – those we wish might have been made if the game were continued by Score, beyond the three printed sets. With the help of some generous donors (our local Best Buy and a car dealership called Rydell Chevrolet) and our amazing raffle/donation coordinator (Gail Boehmer…we call her mom), we added a raffle aspect to the weekend and offered one big ticket item per year including goodies like iPods, Kindle Fires and more. The raffle helped to more than double our contribution to Slay-A-Thon over the years. In 2009, I made the move to a big 100-year old house and with the support of my Buffy-loving and big-hearted husband, our home has been the home to Weekend O’ Buffy ever since.
It’s amazing to think that June 2-5, 2016 will bring our 13th Weekend O’ Buffy. Our little group has gotten a little smaller – some folks have moved from the area and are unable to travel back, some we’ve lost to health battles hard fought, some have just grown to celebrate their Buffy love in other ways – but the heart of what we do year after year is still beating loud and strong. This year, we’ll see friends who travel from Wisconsin, Minnesota and even Maryland, just to continue the friendships, fun and fundraising that we started so many years ago in a little game shop in Iowa. I say it every year…if you guys keep showing up, I’ll never stop hosting!
Thanks so much to Slay-A-Thon for inspiring our little group to use our Buffy-love for a great cause! We’ll always be your neighbors to the west, cheering you on and slaying alongside you in the fight to grant wish kid wishes and keep the Buffy love alive.
— Caroline (Boehmer) Francis
Check out our Facebook page for information here: https://www.facebook.com/weekendobuffy/