Foosball – the popular tabletop game involving quick spins and slides of bars mounted with doll-size figures used to propel or block a ball racing toward a goal – is breaking away from the dimly lit bar scene and finding new life – literally – in local fundraisers, team building events and parties focused on old-fashioned joy.
Founded by Dan Dias, weFooz Human Foosball has brought human foosball to Gainesville and it has been welcomed with open arms (and quick kicking legs).
Born in Brazil, Dias moved to New Hampshire as a child with his family. After meeting his wife, they relocated to Gainesville and quickly felt at home.
Dias first became aware of the idea of human foosball simply by seeing a video online of several seniors playing on a homemade court.
“I was struck by the fun these senior players were having and realized that anyone could play,” he stated.
As an active member of his church, Dias was a volunteer for a Fall Festival being held for international students. In helping plan for the event, Dias suggested they create a human foosball game. And according to Dias, attendees flocked to the sport.
“At the time, we had a 14 x 24 foot court and by the crowd reaction, we realized quickly we were onto something,” commented Dias.
Shortly after, with the help of his dad, Dias expanded his foosball court to 20 x 32 feet. At roughly the same time, a dear friend from Guatemala was diagnosed with liver cancer and sought treatment in the United States at UF Health Shands Hospital. In an effort to help with medical expenses, another foosball tournament was held and raised over $2,000 with all funds going to his friend, who is today cancer-free.
Over the next six months a few more events were held and interest kept growing. But it was September 2016 that kicked weFooz into full play.
Enter Xtraordinary Joy and the Meacham Family.
Tony and Amy Meacham, a Gainesville couple whose daughter, Moriah Joy, was born with a rare X-chromosome deletion, became friendly with Dan Dias and his family. In 2016, the Meacham’s founded Xtraordinary Joy, a nonprofit organization providing advocacy and funding for X-chromosome deletion research that advances lifelong health, behavior and learning. Funds raised by the foundation promote clinical interventions, therapies and care opportunities for children afflicted by X-chromosome deletions.
According to Meacham, Xtraordinary Joy owes much to weFooz and Dan Dias.
She added, “When we confided to Dan about our daughter’s rare genetic disorder and our hopes to begin medical research, he inspired us to start a Facebook page and even designed our first logo. Dan has an amazing heart and strives to help others above all. When he shared his compassion to help us launch our fundraising efforts with a Human Foosball Tournament, he propelled us farther than we could have imagined in just months.”
The tournament was comprised of 32 teams and hosted well over 200 participants. The initial event was such a success, the second was held only seven months later.
“weFooz has been our biggest sponsor, raising close to $15,000 for rare chromosome disorder research,” said Meacham. “I would say “Xtraordinary Joy,” is the perfect way to describe the elation one feels in the weFooz arena.”
Contributing to the community remains at the heart of all weFooz play.
Anchoring a threefold mission of building camaraderie, promoting fitness, and impacting lives, Dias stated, “Ten percent of all revenue, regardless of source will go to a nonprofit, and in 2017 our focus is rare disease research.”
And it’s not just participants in fundraising events that have battled on the foosball fields. For example, according to Dias, within the same week this past spring, weFooz held events at a child’s backyard birthday party, an after-school program and at the O’Connor Center for an Exactech company event.
“The game is so forgiving, which makes it perfect for all ages and abilities. We’ve had players from age seven to competitive, very fit adults to seniors,” said Dias.
According to the founder, the game’s main rules are to “hold onto the bar at all times, have a good time, and don’t interfere with someone else’s good time.” With such a fun, simple focus, it seems the perfect team building event for both small and large businesses.
According to Dias, weFooz has held games both indoors and out, in parking lots, fields or even in conference rooms.
What’s next for the future of weFooz human foosball?
“We’d like to serve as a national foosball resource and perhaps be a part of the development of a national league,” hopes Dias “Right now, though, we’d love to develop a city-wide foosball league here in Gainesville.”
Sounds like fun.