A loving true story from Grandma Margie
When Mason was 11, his mother tragically died and he endured great sorrow. I was blessed to be able to help take care of this kind, good-hearted child, smart young man. One day he came home from school and I asked him the usual question, “how was school today?” However, on this day, he didn’t give me the usual 12-year-old “boring” response. Instead, he said that he made up a new game and drew it in his notebook.
After a lot of hard work, continual revisions, creative improvements, and his “never-give-up” attitude Mason’s March Madness “Basketball Brackets,” was ready to become a reality. The game is amazingly strategic with a little bit of luck mixed in and is a load of fun with every move and every basket! It is definitely a huge beer-pong rival! And 2-8 players can compete at one time.
I soon took him to a craft store to help him buy supplies to make a prototype. We had so much fun cutting out the hand-written came cards and player pieces and and even more fun and laughter playing it. It was music to my ears to hear him laugh again! The game plays on the level of many top shelf games and is the only one of its kind that is devoted to “March Madness.” Even better, you can play it any time of the year and still have a great time.
When we completed the 1st prototype Mason had just turned 13. I then encouraged him to go online and see if any game manufacturing companies would be interested in bringing his game idea to life. Mason spent weeks and then months searching but was only met with constant rejection. Two companies wouldn’t even accept a game description without an agent. Next, tried out an “invention” company and sent in an application. Almost a year later, this company called and said that they just found the application and were interested. I asked Mason if he was interested. Mason, now being older, said that he needed to make some improvements, which he did, and sent the game to the company. This turned out to be a HUGE MISTAKE! They took a lot of my teacher’s retirement money up front and every few months kept asking for more. After draining us for more and more while they threatened not to continue if we didn’t keep sending more, we stopped with them. Neither produced a thing for us while my retirement savings was taking a big hit.
After dropping this company one of the managers called me to say that he liked Mason’s game so much that he’d share what the next step should be: to try to find a manufacturing company on our own and eliminate the middleman. We tried places in our home state of Ohio. No luck! Mason’s “never-give-up” mindset forged ahead despite his disappointments and demand to search and work harder. All the while he continued to make enhancements to the game. I was so proud of him!
It was Covid times by now, and his school shut down. However, Mason used this difficult time to keep on keeping on! During this time I would meet with him at an outdoor park near his house. There he designed a better game board, moving around cut-out paper squares and re-taping them onto a big piece of cardboard until they were just where he wanted them. He wrote 70 game cards: 30 “Assist” cards, 30 “Turnover” cards, and 10 “Heal” cards all with basketball-themed wording. He designed a spinner for concessions and he designed an actual basketball shooter among other items for his “Basketball Brackets” game.
What happened next was Heaven sent!
We found a game manufacturing company called, Shuffled Ink whose owner, Charles Levin, is an out-of-this-world kind, helpful, caring, honest, and interested man, who agreed to manufacture Mason’s game! Can you even imagine my joy at realizing that my grandson’s creativity and hard work would become a reality?! Mr. Levin connected us with his lead graphic designer, Steve Sherrin, who is a talented and also very caring man! He and Mason emailed countless times for months to get the designs, box, game pieces, cards, spinner, directions, basketball and lever, and etc. just right and works of art. Steve often complimented Mason on his creative ideas and even on his proofreading skills. (Meanwhile, to save attorney fees, Grandma Margie wrote 21-pages to receive a gov’t patent pending for Mason’s game.)
Throughout this time, another heart-touching thing happened. I was worried that my lapses in communication (due to cancer surgery and radiation treatments) would halt some of this game manufacturing process. So I informed them about my physical condition. Unbelievably, Charles didn’t charge me for months and told me not to worry about money until we get everything done. Charles & Steve kept checking on me, just for my health and not for business or fees. Charles even sent me uplifting emails with happy emojis showing such encouragement and kindness. Honestly, this level of genuine care and kindness from a stranger throughout his dealings led to a trust and gratitude that I believe truly helped me through my cancer fight. Charles was more interested in in helping me live to see my Grandson bring these games to market than getting paid. I was so blessed! What business people care more about a person, a client they never even met, than the money payment they were entitled to receive? Charles and Steve cared! Even now, I’m crying as I’m writing this remembering how much their caring helped me during my bad days even during Covid when none of my 4 children were allowed to visit me in the hospital or afterward. I fought my cancer with extra determination especially because after all the sorrow that Mason had already gone through with his mother. I just had to be here for many more years for my creative, loving grandson. So every MRI, every CAT scan, every radiation treatment, every needle in my chest, or every staple shot into my breast was okay as long as that would help me recover for my grandson, and, of course, for my whole family.
Finally, 6 years after Mason first invented his game, it was completed and on its way to the USA.
Finally, Basketball Brackets arrived in Orlando, FL with Shuffled Ink to store for us.
Then, another Charles Levin kind gesture! He paid for the transport games to my house in Columbus, Ohio, and stored the rest in his shop, free of charge. His generous gestures during my medically and monetarily tough time, helped me not only with bills but also made me realize the goodness given to me through a stranger, a businessman, Charles. I was uplifted to recover! Most importantly, my grandson Mason, (who is now a freshman majoring in business) has a business role model worthy of emulation. He sees, through Charles, an unselfish example that business is more than just making money, but can be about really helping people along the way!
I stored under beds, in the basement, on top of cabinets, under tables, and in every room. My house is tastefully decorated in matching brown-box décor.) Shuffled Ink stored the remaining games. I asked Charles if he would attend the Game Show Convention in Columbus, Ohio, near my home. I even offered (tried to bribe him) to make him my homemade meatballs and lasagna if he would come to the convention to help sell Mason’s games. Unfortunately, Covid postponed the convention, and Charles could not attend. (Not attending was probably a good thing for Charles because after tasting my authentic Italian cooking, he would have owed me, instead of my owing him for the work done. Ha ha ha)
UPDATE: A year later, Charles did in fact travel top Columbus and came to my home for my meatball, lasagna, shrimp cocktail, salad, 3 side dishes and 2 very large home-made pies!!! After dinner Charles and Mason went down in my basement and played Basket Ball Brackets for hours. All I could hear was laughing and carrying on so of course I went down to serve them a lot more pie! It was a wonderful night!
Mason and I have tried to sell some games in Ohio to family, friends, former coworkers, coaches, and others and we have made just a few sales. I’ve set up tables at bazaars and have been given wonderful feedback from buyers, several returning for multiple copies saying that the game is so much fun to play. “March Madness Meets Basketball Monopoly” is the phrase that one return buyer coined for Mason’s game. Players compete to win their teams’ brackets and also travel around the outer game squares earning and losing money which will be needed later for the Championship Game where players use their skills to shoot mini baskets.
Marketing & Sales has proven to be our final nemesis as it has been extremely difficult for us to break through and sell more games. Without the needed knowhow and a large enough marketing budget it has been very tough going. Charles from Shuffled Ink has tried to help us but he’s a manufacturing guy and this is not his forte. While sales have not worked out for us, the experience and meeting Charles and working with his company has been wonderfully uplifting in a world of so much divisiveness and selfishness.
Mason’s dream and my dream for him continues and we hope that you will support us and buy a game! Not only will it help us but we promise you will have many great times playing Basketball Brackets!
There’s a true joy in seeing my Gift-From-God-Grandson feel proud of his work and use it to help others.
On an even happier note – God is great, and I today I am doing very well.
About Shuffled Ink
Shuffled Ink is a multigenerational family business that specializes in printing custom playing cards, tarot & flash cards, custom card games, packaging and more for businesses and individuals worldwide.
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