Town resident Barbara Faris on New Year’s Eve got what she calls “the best gift” she’s ever received.
Technically, her birthday was the day before, on Dec. 30. But she’d been visiting relatives in North Carolina over the holidays, and didn’t get back to New Canaan until Dec. 31.
Here at home, her 8-year-old granddaughter, Evie Hollingsworth, overheard Faris say that she liked to play board games and that she wished there was a club in the area.
With no prompting, the East School second-grader stayed up to 11:30 p.m. drawing 14 posters advertising a new, family-friendly Board Game Club, and on Jan. 1 began handing them out in the community. Back at school, Evie told her teacher, Laura Carreiro, about the idea, and the teacher copied a sample poster for each child in the class to bring home.
Several parents expressed interest in the Board Game Club (“It keeps them off video games,” Faris said) and the group convened its first session in January, thanks to the New Canaan YMCA, which volunteered to host the gathering.
“I’m bowled over,” Faris said of her granddaughter’s thoughtfulness and the result.
“For her to do that as a selfless gift to me for my birthday present, I think that is about the best gift I have ever received in my life,” she added.
After Evie activated her plan, it became a team effort to see it materialize.
One of those most instrumental in seeing the Board Games Club come to life was the person that Faris approached to see about hosting the inaugural meetup: Phil Prout, the Youth, Family & Camp Y-Ki Director at the Y.
Asked about getting involved, Prout said he was “just enraptured” by the story about Evie as well as “thrilled” that Faris approached him “because we are all about supporting the community and members and of course the kids, as well, and if they want to put something together like this that’s going to be positive, we’re with them 100%.”
Membership was not required to attend the first gathering, held Sunday, Jan. 21 in the Y’s Wagner Room. Attendees brought their own board games.
“I think it went really well,” Prout said. “It was an excellent example of the YMCA’s mission coming to life in the flesh. It was families gathering together, sharing a common interest, having fun and I also think it was good for the kids because there’s some issues with social interaction and being face-to-face with people and this was a great medium to enhance that through.”
Twenty-plus people attended the Board Games Club’s first session, Prout said, and a tentative date of Feb. 25 has been set for the next one.
“Barbara and I talked a few times about making this a regular monthly program for families and the community, and slowly I’ll probably take over the administration and leading of it from Barbara, who did a great job kicking it off.”
Attendees included a number of young kids—such as Evie’s younger brother, Warren, 6—and their parents, and everyone there played “analog” games such as Jenga, Yeti Spaghetti, Backgammon and Operation, according to Faris.
She has since learned of similar board game clubs in town that serve tweens and teens, though the one that Evie started appears to have found a special niche among younger kids. Being the only grandparent there at the Y session, besides her husband, Faris added that she broached the idea of creating a similar club at Staying Put in New Canaan, where she’s a member, and that appears to be coming together, too.
It’s a nice new activity for Faris, who followed her granddaughter and family to New Canaan after they moved here amid the pandemic “and bought a property with a barn on it, and convinced my husband and I to come leave Texas and move into the barn.”
It was a great move, Faris said.
The poster that Evie drew up to promote her gift to grandma included the words ‘Board Game Club,’ “and then she drew a picture of a kitten and it said, ‘This is our mascot, his name is Dice,’ ” Faris recalled. “And she drew a couple of dice and she drew a board game. And then she said, ‘If interested, call—’ and she put my phone number real large at the bottom.”
Faris added: “All on her own. No help, no prompting. It was completely her conception.”
Asked what she believes was the big draw for the Board Game Club, Faris said, “It keeps them [kids] off video games. It teaches them social skills. It teaches them good sportsmanship, and the parents were just ecstatic about it.”
The in-person interaction and game-playing “was great,” she said.
“It’s so much more fun than computers,” Faris continued. “You interact with humans. I walked around and I joined games with little children that I didn’t know and guided them through the steps of the game when they were unsure of how to read the cards and take three steps and do this and do that. It was just, if I can use the phrase, ‘A good time was had by all.’ ”
Those interested in learning more about the Board Games Club and/or receiving updates on the next meetup can contact Barbara Faris at firstname.lastname@example.org.