"Mass Effect has N7 Day. Dragon Age needs something too! What if we did something ourselves, maybe on December 4 as 'D4,' and tried to do something good while we're at it?"
Those were the words of my good friend Teresa "I'maSithDuh," otherwise known as "T," chatting with friends October 2018, and the next thing I knew, she'd put in motion her idea for Dragon Age Day as an actual thing, with me and some other passionate and talented close friends from the fandom pitching in right from the get-go.
It wasn't organized, exactly. T immediately had her idea and saw the need for a group. She asked us if we'd help, and we all felt the same way—that she was right, and instantly that we should do something. So we set forth with T, a tiny crew including Savvy B., Alistair SM James, Ghil Dirthalen, and Andrastini, and we were instantly a group, and galvanized! And we were so excited to do something new in the world, something that would celebrate the world of Thedas we loved and that would also genuinely help make a currently darker world a better place.
We got to work. Picked a charity (our first one, that year, was Child's Play). And somehow we made it happen. Somehow, we'd started something good!
Daring to be Great
Helping T form this group challenged me. I knew what to do from my work in PR, marketing, editing, etc., and now I could do it for FUN. I'm really shy, so I had never really enjoyed reaching out to people for PR (which is ironic but true after 20+ years), but now I could do so for charity, for something I loved! And somehow that made it easier.
So I was in. And I'm grateful to T, not just for the chance to help build Dragon Age Day from the ground up, but because she dared to think big. She taught me something with that. It was my first lesson in what happens in life if you just think of something and say 'what if?'—even if you don't feel important enough to make it happen, if you try hard, sometimes it happens anyway.
We just had this idea and started doing what we could. And I thought it would be fun to reach out to celebrities because, coming from PR, I knew how this could really boost our visibility. So I started researching reps and managers, getting information on who to reach out to as respectfully as possible, then making contact, convinced inwardly that nobody would probably ever respond, but it was worth a try.
But of course, people did respond. And miracles started happening almost right away. Incredibly, people listened, responded, and donated. T's idea had become a real thing.
And now here we are, and it's four years later, and our event has raised over $50,000 to benefit charities we care about (with 100% of all proceeds going to those charities directly). Andrastini and Ghil bowed out after the first year, and who could blame them—it was exhausting, and because we hadn't thought to incorporate postage (hey, we were new at this), our team absorbed all of the costs of our launch and it took years for some of us just to pay off postage and other assorted fees. We founders still cover all expenses—website, hosting, printing or shipping stuff to celebs where needed, but we do so because it's worth it. And we like that nobody will ever wonder "will my money actually go to the charity?" Our answer can be clear and short: "Yes. 100%."
But we got smarter and kept going. T, Savvy, Alistair and I kept on going, and soon our thing just kept on being a thing. We got the attention and unofficial support of EA and BioWare, who donated both funds to our charities and swag to our efforts, helped to boost our signal, and who have also provided their time and input to help us make the fans feel appreciated and loved on this special day of the year for years now.
As a group of Dragon Age fans, this attention was all we could have asked for, and continues to be a dream come true.
I've learned a lot over the past four years. Like what I can do if I have to.
I'm really shy. But I've learned that I can overcome my shyness enough to talk to people, to even email celebrities and people I admire if the cause is great enough, like charity, and somehow they sometimes respond, and miracles happen.
And there's more. I don't like looking at myself, honestly (although I'm working on that). But I've learned to overcome that because somebody had to get on camera and ask the questions, and it turned out to be me. So now, for better or worse, there I am, annoying the universe in person, a human Muppet occasionally flailing at moments, but putting myself out there.
Those of you who read this blog know that I had a brush with death recently, and I'm still learning to manage life with heart failure. And that's been a learning experience too that's also been a direct part of this Dragon Age Day for me. Every time I thought of my terror at being on camera, or my fear of making a fool of myself, I thought about how happy I am simply to still be here, to still have the chance to grow and risk like that.
And then I go ahead and Do The Thing. Because this isn't the Fade, and this is all the chance we get.
I've learned from our celebrity supporters too. I've learned that in addition to her beauty and talent, you're never going to find a kinder person than Sumalee Montano, and that Jon Curry is just as funny in real life as Zevran. I've learned that Inon Zur is not only a brilliant composer, he's also a fascinating talker and an incredibly nice person who cares about inspiring others around him. I've learned that Gideon Emery is a Renaissance man who can do anything (act, paint, sing, you name it), and that Ramon Tikaram writes as beautifully and elegantly as he speaks!I've learned that Alix Wilton Regan is basically a real-life Inquisitor whose passion and drive could fuel the world, and that Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir aren't just great writers, they're great talkers who are inspired by the same books and shows that inspired so many of us fans (and that there's always room in life for a little snark). And that Nunzio is a nice person when his interviewer utterly panics and unforgivably and mysteriously loses the ability to speak or pronounce his name.
Basically, I've learned that sometimes, the people you admire for their talent and brilliance will actually turn out to be even kinder and cooler people than you could have imagined, which is what happened when I got to interact with Patrick Weekes, Karin Weekes, and David Gaider, as well as the rest of the BioWare team, including the responders to our "Silly Questions" each year, like John Epler, Sheryl Chee, Lukas Kristjanson, Mary Kirby, Brianne Battye, and so many more!
Sharing Friendship and Fandom
I've also learned that working on something with friends can be amazing, especially when you're all fans of the same thing, like Dragon Age, and that when you bring on fellow fans to help (our volunteer team is now over 30 dedicated, amazing people) those people quickly become your friends as well.I've been so grateful for our incredible Dragon Age Day team because you're never gonna find a sunnier, kinder, more hardworking group of people. From T's passion for kindness and justice, to Alistair's superb management and tireless cheerleading, to Savvy's warmth, art, and graphics, I'm always inspired by my fellow founders and their leadership and support.
And that's just the beginning, because I also have to spotlight our team's rock stars like Azkabella, Nik, Rachel Hoover, Lumi, Kristen, Binky, Lady Iolanthe, Jessica, Jen, Janette, Liz, Cafe!, Felassan, Dymme, Jasmine, Gabby, Kala Elizabeth, Ashley, Sherry, Kemvee, Joanna, Morgan, Noire, Madeline McQueen, Sara, Zayne, Tina Cloud, César Allori, Andarateia, and many more!
We're just a group of fans, having a great time, celebrating Thedas, and supporting each other while try to bring a little healing elfroot to the world. And I've learned from every one of them.
Just Going For It
Most of all, I've learned that you have to risk and be brave to make a mark on the world.
So the next time you have an idea that seems impossible to you, or too big to risk, I'm here to tell you to DO it. Go ahead and try.
Take me, for example. In the past three days, I got to interview some of my favorite artists on the planet, and spend some time in conversation with them—from writers Christina Weir & Nunzio DeFilippis (Blue Wraith), to composer Inon Zur (Dragon Age Origins, Starfield, Fallout 76, Into the Storm), to actor Mark Hildreth (Resurrection, The Looming Tower, V, and Sten in Dragon Age Origins). I got to DM a Honey Heist game live, with a group of wonderful players including Eugenio Vargas, Karin Weekes, Patrick Bly, Josh Hood, Anjelica Grey, and my friend Teresa herself. As the icing on the cake, I tweeted a plea to Critical Role to support our cause and was absolutely floored when it was retweeted by Matthew Mercer and Dani Carr (and then Critter-hugged to a wonderful degree).
Again, it's a great reminder to go ahead and try for stuff. Just to go for it. You never know what will happen next.
I'm so happy with the lessons I've learned over the past four years. I'm so honored and proud to be part of Dragon Age Day, to work with my hardworking cofounders and our incredible team, and it's been amazing to watch it grow each and every year.
Thanks for being a part of Dragon Age Day, and here's to the next one. We've had our most successful year yet, and we have a lot of plans to continue to grow our event and charity outreach year round, as well, so stay tuned!
Now I hope you'll go forth, all you Wardens, Hawkes, and Inkies! And be brave! Take that risk. You never now what will happen next, and some dreams don't just live in the Fade. Some dreams become reality.