The Card Form of Community Service
By: Alex Yung and Brian Zhou
“In the Pokémon Trading Card community, I noticed that the competitive players got a lot of extra cards that they don't need. Those kinds of cards would either be thrown away or recycled. I thought that they could be reused and repurposed, and I could have the community get involved by building decks that children in the hospital could play. Otherwise, they normally wouldn't be able to because they were stuck in the hospital.” - Ken Yung
Since the first release of the Red and Blue video games, Pokémon has become a universal form of entertainment for all ages, through their games, trading cards, and movies. Their brand has become synonymous with the old and the young, but when thinking of community service, playing the Pokémon TCG doesn’t usually come to mind. However, Ken Yung has managed to create a community where he can both relax and help out the community. Ken Yung, the founder and organizer of the Pokémon Card Game League, creates a space where attendees can relax and play card games with each other. He also works to spread the joy of card games to those who have no access, such as children in hospitals.
Yung’s love for the Pokémon Trading Card Game originated from his son. He wanted to find a form of entertainment that didn’t involve electronic devices. After testing out multiple card games, his son, Alex, took a liking to the Pokémon Card Game, and they began their journey in Pokémon.
“When he was younger, I wanted to find a game that was not a video game or a computer game that we could play together. I also wanted it to be educational, challenging, and mentally stimulating. I found that the Pokémon Trading Card Game was the kind of a game that allowed Alex and I to play together and also be a fun and educational kind of entertainment.” says Yung.
His idea for the current Card Game Club came from his interactions with the Pokémon community. He felt that the Pokémon community as a whole was friendly and created an environment where a group of players could meet would be beneficial to everyone.
Yung mentions, “Because Alex was a good player, I started to volunteer at those events to help the organizers in terms of judging, tournament operations, and organizing with the computers. I got to know the people in these events and became friends with many of them, and found that the Pokémon community was a really family-friendly environment. It was good for Alex, for he could also make good friends.”
At many different Pokémon events, Yung saw that a lot of Pokémon Cards were unused or thrown away. He felt that those cards could be put to use in other ways, and realized that many others couldn’t access Pokémon Cards. Then he came up with the idea of creating decks of cards to donate to children in hospitals.
He says, “In the Pokémon Trading Card community, I noticed that the competitive players got a lot of extra cards that they don't need. Those kinds of cards would either be thrown away or recycled. I thought that they could be reused and repurposed, and I could have the community get involved by building decks that children in the hospital could play. Otherwise, they normally wouldn't be able to because they were stuck in the hospital.”
Yung’s interest in helping the community was not newfound. His community spirit developed in the past from his enjoyment of volunteering at different charity organizations.
“I've always enjoyed volunteering and helping, especially focused on things with children. For example, volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. I also worked with the church to renovate worn down houses.” Yung said.
He continues to look for opportunities to give back to the community. After the pandemic calms down, he hopes to bring back the community spirit by donating Pokémon Cards to others who can’t obtain some themselves.
“I continue to get donations from the Pokémon community, so we have a lot of decks and supplies. I'm looking for new avenues to get them out to hospitals or maybe even to children's centers… I'm looking to branch out into educational centers, maybe even veteran agencies too, because perhaps veterans can find the benefit.”
Yung has seen firsthand how his work has impacted the community. Amidst the current chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, the community needs to come together now more than ever. From wearing a mask in public to donating goods to those in need, everyone plays a part.