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Code Yellow: A Tournament for Whitney

It was back in November that I first heard about a laser tag tournament fundraiser that was being planned in support of Whitney, a brave little girl from St. Joseph, MO facing a rare form of brain cancer known as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). This captured my attention in part because cancer has directly impacted my family as well, so causes like this really resonate with me. Then of course hearing that I could support her fundraiser while playing laser tag sounded like a wonderful way to help while enjoying an afternoon of friendly competition. This event was to take place at Belt Entertainment, a bowling and laser tag center in St. Joseph, MO just outside of Kansas City and was originally planned for late January. However, the date had to be changed (due to the success of the Kansas City Chiefs this past football season), which resulted in it getting rescheduled on a weekend when coincidentally I was already planning to be traveling through the midwest. This change in date meant that I’d be able to be there to participate. The Code Yellow Laser Tag Tournament was jointly held with the Strike Out Cancer Bowling to support the Fight for Whitney and subsequently the Whitney Kate Wells Memorial Foundation in memory of Whitney who sadly lost her battle with DIPG at the end of 2019, prior to the event taking place. The event still moved forward in her honor (named for yellow which represents the designated support color for DIPG) and it made a difference by raising about $1000 to be presented to the Whitney Kate Wells Memorial Foundation.

Let me tell you about the event itself. There were two components to this fundraiser that was organized by two Lafayette High School business students, Caroline Ruden and Tarrin Deayon and an amazing volunteer team…please forgive me if I miss any names, but big props to everyone including Brooke, Lela, Terri and Trina for helping to make this a fantastic and successful event! While I was spending most of my time in or around the laser tag arena, other activities were going on simultaneously and they filled half the lanes of the bowling alley with supporters who turned out to help Strike Out Cancer. I arrived a bit early as they were setting up the registration table and raffle items donated by about a dozen local businesses. I was very impressed by how organized everything was right from the start. As someone who has coordinated fundraisers in the past, I know that this is no small task. And as someone who has participated in a wide variety of laser tag events, I can tell you that this one was exceptionally well done. They even brought in their own monitor to track the teams and the brackets…they really had their act together!

After checking in and meeting Caroline and Tarrin (who I had been communicating with by email for the last few weeks) I then met up with my teammates, Carson and Tyson. The three of us would play together as Team NYMO (meaning New York/Missouri).

It wasn’t long before the other teams started to arrive. Although I didn’t know any of the other players at the start, I could tell that many of them went to the same high school and it appeared that a few were definitely regulars at this arena. One of them walked by our group and casually mentioned that he had never been beaten for score or accuracy in this arena, so I assumed his team (Team MMMM) would be our greatest competition. We got to see what kind of a challenge we were in for as teams NYMO, Fortnite and MMMM were facing each other in the first game as we entered the “Cowboys and Aliens” themed arena.

First, we entered the vesting room and put on the Zone Helios CE packs. I love that we were playing on one of my favorite systems. Every time I put on one of these vests it reminds me of all the nights I played with similar gear at FJ.

Then we went in to duke it out in the double level arena. During the three-team games we played without bases or targets (because this site only has two bases) so those scores solely reflected player tags. We played throughout the entire arena starting out on the western themed lower level…

And my team played most strategically when we were tagging from the alien themed upper level.

We took first place in that game which sent us directly into the next winner’s round. Meanwhile the team in second (MMMM) moved into the other bracket as Team Fortnite finished the round in third. The Giraffes beat out the Braxton’s team (who as a result would go up against Fortnite) so they would be next to face MMMM. After these games we were already into the two team rounds.

The Giraffes were made up of three high school girls who I would have loved to see shake things up a bit in their next game against MMMM, so I tried to sideline coach as best I could by giving them a couple of tips about taking the bases as this was the first time that the bases and targets were turned on (they had been reserved for the two team games to provide even opportunities for points). I suspected that Team MMMM was going to play hard, but those ladies certainly put up a worthy competition.

When Braxton’s team came out ahead in their round we were ready to challenge them with a strategy I had suggested and Tyson sketched it out for us to review on his phone. This involved us collectively rushing the base together to make sure we all took the points immediately and then holding positions on the upper level to control three of the ramp access points. The upper level has good sight lines to each of the bases (except for the corner where there is a blind spot).

This also afforded us easy access to a lot of targets to grab additional points while the other team was down. We tried the strategy against Braxton’s team and took the victory. Zone is largely about two things…timing and team communication. Although this was a light version of the game, those two things still apply. My personal shot timing felt spot on during this round and I took the lead on the communication, trying to constantly let my teammates know where our opponents were in that arena as best I could (especially considering I didn’t know any of this arena’s reference points). It was a successful trial run with our strategy and we were ready to execute it again in the final round as we went up against Team MMMM. Which way do you think this one will go?

Well, this was a more intense round and Team MMMM really brought their A game. I appreciate that they were solid competitors all the way through. However, our game was on point and our strategy was now practiced once so we knew where we were going and performed even better on this round leading us to the win.

When the tournament games were completed the raffle prizes were announced before medals were presented to the top placing laser tag teams. Congratulations to the Giraffes who took third place.

And to our worthy competitors on Team MMMM for coming in second place.

And Team NYMO came in first place.

This event was a lot of fun. So much fun in fact that it really reminded me of my early tag days playing every weekend at FJ, and that was really very cool to experience again. Big thanks again to Caroline, Tarrin, Brooke and all who were involved with putting this all together.

I had a wonderful time and really think this group of students did an exceptional job with a successful fundraiser for a very worthy cause. You can watch Tarrin and Caroline talking about the event on the local KQ2 station.

When the event was officially over and there were still a few minutes of time reserved in the arena everyone went in for a free-for-all game just to let loose and have some fun. It was a great time and I’m so pleased I was able to be part of an event that helped to make a difference. Although I never had a chance to meet young Whitney, she will not be forgotten and has clearly touched the hearts of the entire St. Joseph community. To learn more about the battle against DIPG visit

Thank you to Belt Entertainment, their staff and all the volunteers.

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