Magic Mike

Chico gamers band together to raise funds for a friend in need

Mike Dishler was out of work for three months and incurred catastrophic medical bills.

Mike Dishler was out of work for three months and incurred catastrophic medical bills.

Photo courtesy of Becky Strong

As football monopolized the attention of most sports fans on Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 7), several dozen devotees of an altogether different type of game gathered at the Chico Magic store for another long-anticipated matchup.

The operative acronym at the event wasn’t NFL but MTG—short for Magic the Gathering. MTG is a long-running collectible card game played by two or more players who duel with decks composed of cards representing various creatures and spells. It inspires fervent devotion among players of all ages, many of whom form tight-knit communities based on a shared love of the game.

Locally, many MTG players gather at two locations, Chico Magic downtown and Heroes Corner on East Avenue. Regulars from both stores converged for Sunday’s event, dubbed Magic4Mike, the result of local players coming together to help one of their own.

Last year, 27-year-old Mike Dishler contracted chicken pox, which, due to an existing medical condition, wreaked serious havoc on his body, causing several organs to shut down and pushing him to the edge of death. He spent six weeks in the hospital and five weeks in a rehabilitation center and was forced out of work for three months. Though Dishler had insurance to cover some of his treatment, he’s suffered economic hardship as a result of what he described as “seven-digit” medical bills and his time off work. He has since recovered and returned to work at the Chico Mall’s management office.

Rob McIntosh, owner of Chico’s Furniture Consignment Plus and a fellow Magic player, was moved to help when he heard about Dishler’s illness. McIntosh spearheaded the months-long Magic4Mike fundraiser that culminated with Sunday’s tournament, enlisting the help of shop owners Anthony Bennett (Heroes Corner) and Becky Strong (Chico Magic).

“I actually didn’t know Mike that well beforehand,” McIntosh said. “We knew each others’ names and would see each other playing at the local shops, but I just knew him casually as someone in the [MTG] community. I just heard he spent a long time in the hospital and had some serious health complications and serious medical bills left to pay and thought it would be a fun way to help him out.”

Strong and Bennett each donated several hundred dollars’ worth of MTG products to the cause and sold raffle tickets at their stores. McIntosh also donated new products and offered some cards from his own collection as prizes, and many players made smaller contributions to the prize pool. Top prizes included boxes of new cards and a single card named Tarmogoyf valued at about $150 (like baseball cards, rare MTG cards are revered by players and collectors and increase in value). More than $1,500 in prizes were gathered over the last several months.

Fifty-one players paid $30 each to participate in the event, with the prizes split evenly between the raffle and the tournament. Round after round from morning until late afternoon, cards were turned, creatures clashed and fireballs flung until just one player, Jeremy Tanforan, stood victorious. He walked away with a box of premium cards valued at at least $200. A final count on funds raised for Dishler wasn’t available as of press time.

Dishler was on hand for the tournament’s kickoff and received a rousing round of applause. He said he’s been overwhelmed by the support.

“I was still at rehab when a friend called and said he saw a poster at one of the stores, and I was shocked,” he said. “I can’t believe Anthony, Becky and Rob got together to do this and they did it without even thinking twice.

“My big takeaway is the realization of what a great, tight-knit community this is,” he said. “The fact that people I don’t even know or barely know have been throwing $20, $30 or $40 toward the raffle after hearing my story is amazing. I’ve never seen or heard of anything like this happening. It’s surreal.”