Our family steadfastly refuses to permit a television set at the cottage. Crickets, whipporwills, loons, geese... these are the preferred sounds. Books are a major activity. Paddling and rowing are the preferred transportation.

In the hush of silence, we let in slowness.

Board games and euchre happen after dinner and it’s one of the happinesses that our adult kids and their friends gather with the parents to enjoy Monopoly, Scrabble, Euchre and the odd game of Dominoes at the big table in the living room.

So I was intrigued this week when I was talking with David Jeffery, the main fellow over at United Way of Greater Simcoe County. The United Way supports now dozens of agencies and has a goal of $1.15 million for 2003. That’s a far cry from the six agencies and $17,000 goal that was in place in 1971 when I was first in Barrie!

Anyway, David caught my attention when he talked about a new Board game that’s benefitting United Way this year. And my attention REALLY focussed when I realized the entrepreneurial skill that’s gone into its development.

This is neat!

Some entrepreneurial soul in North Bay started a company called Help on Board. Built on the win-win-win theme, they began their first project in North Bay five years ago as a fundraiser for the local hospital. They haven’t looked back, and neither have the communities on the receiving end of their very well developed project.

Built on the Monopoly theme (and with Parker Brothers permission, using Parker Brothers manufacturers) Help on Board comes into a community like Simcoe County and sets out to localize Monopoly and produce a game that we can all relate to. The properties are bought by local companies, and so Reading Railroad becomes the South Simcoe Steam Train (for a price). The Go Square is now Ontario Northland Bus Line while Go to Jail is the all night takeout at Wendy’s Restaurants. Honda has sponsored two sets of cards that would normally be Community Chest and Chance. One set of cards offers marine products, the second is devoted to automotive and motorcycle products.

And on around the board we go. Expertech has the Boardwalk square, and companies all over Simcoe County have ‘bought’ their way onto the board, all 22 properties. The money is, of course, by Canadian Tire and the ‘bank’ is Scotiabank. Remax is the real estate agent.

Everybody pays to be part of the Simcoe County Monopoly Game.

It doesn’t stop there... the little characters that we select to count out way around the board also take on a local flavour. Players can choose among a spirit catcher (Barrie), a swan (Midland), a Champlain statuette (Orillia), a train (South Simcoe), a Skier (Medonte) a turkey, a sailboat.

The board game is available at end of counter displays and in toy sections at all Simcoe County Canadian Tire stores. Cost? $34.99

So, who wins? Well, United Way gets 50% of the sale price, overall, including sponsorships raised through the squares on the game board. Help on Board gets 50% for putting it all together. And the companies who’ve supported it all get well deserved recognition.

David Jeffery says United Way of Greater Simcoe County expects to raise at least $75,000 through this effort. Help on Board has been equally busy selling the concept in Mississauga, Oakville, Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie, Ottawa, Halifax, raising between $60,000 and $100,000 for each designated charity.

On first glance, you might think it could have been done locally by volunteers and raised even more money. Somehow I doubt it. It takes real organization, persistence, followthrough and certainly negotiation for the rights from Monopoly’s owner.

What graciousness and tenacity from all involved. I want one, if only to celebrate all this ingenuity and help out United Way! And just in time for Christmas, too...

A true win-win-win. And it’s going to add real flavour to our evening games next summer! Move over, Euchre! And, turn up that oil lamp!

Thanks, Help on Board. And thanks, David, for sharing this!

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