This is not Modern warfare, as both Tactical Foam Warfare (TFW) and Tactical Nerf Nerds (TNN) focus on bringing communities together to strategize and battle in all-out Nerf-gun wars.
TFW, a St. Joseph based organization, has been up and running for around four years and shows no sign of stopping. The idea is to grow to a large enough group of members and regular attendees to create thunder dome type battles in a more private setting then TFW’s typical public park.
On the smaller and newer side of things is TNN, a spin off group focused on growing the same principles responsible for building TFW. Having only been around for three months, TNN is just getting their boots on the ground. For now they reside in St. Joseph, but founder of the group Andrew Pickering hopes to move their operation to Maryville as soon as a wider audience is reached.
“The ultimate goal of TNN is to have an organization where everyone can feel welcome and involved. That is the beauty of Nerf,” Pickering said. “We want to show Nerf is not just for people that, what most people want to consider, are nerds or dorks.”
Pickering goes on to explain how Nerf and its community changed his life. He hopes he, TFW and TNN can impact others the way it has impacted him.
“Since having the Nerf community in my life I have been able to be more confidant,” Pickering said. “I have suffered from depression. The Nerf community makes you feel like there are not only people that care, but there are also other people out there with the same problems. It gives us another form of support for each other. Yes we use Nerf blasters, but it is more than that.”
Both groups have a huge focus on bringing community members of all ages together. This mission is so strong in TFW it encouraged Pickering to start his own group with TNN.
Thomas Newby, one of the two presidents of TFW, was there when Pickering decided to create TNN. Thomas Newby also contributes by providing the blasters, ammunition and drinks to participants.
In Springfield, Missouri, a similar organization has managed to garner the type of core membership TNN and TFW have been looking for. The group is headed by Rob Lear, someone who Thomas Newby looks to when running TFW.
“Rob Lear of thunder dome in Springfield, Missouri has a documentary about how nerf can change your life,” Thomas Newby said. “I cannot recommend this documentary enough to anyone who cannot understand why adults would want to run around with dart guns. It's is more than that. It is a community of acceptance, friendship and a silly fun escape from a sometimes depressing reality.”
Running a growing group is not all perfect, sometimes it is a seemingly impossible task according to Thomas Newby.
“The hardest parts can be keeping people focused on certain goals and getting people back on the field after a winter break,” Thomas Newby said. “Carrying the sheer number of blasters and equipment can sometimes be daunting as well.”
Thomas Newby describes his arsenal as if TFW is prepared for a Nerf apocalypse.
“The amount of blasters, darts and game equipment I typically like to bring for TFW does not fit in my cavalier. It takes an SUV to haul it and the entire bed of my truck if I was to bring my entire arsenal. As TNN grows Andrew may have this same issue, though I will always help,” Thomas Newby said.
The Co-president of TFW is Thomas Newby’s wife Samantha Newby. She not only helps with TFW, but she works together with her husband to balance whatever task is at hand.
“One of the easiest things is being out there and watching the kids/adults have fun,” Samantha Newby said. “I love to see Tom running around and being a big kid with the rest of them.”
Thomas Newby said the only other organization sharing similar characteristics is a medieval fantasy/fantasy warfare group in St. Joseph. Northwest’s own Humans vs. Zombies does share some qualities with TFW and TNN as well.
President of Humans vs. Zombies junior Isaiah Cook says he is interested and excited in what the upcoming TNN has to offer. Cook said the group’s presence will at least get more attention from the community, hopefully driving others to get involved.
“Our groups have already had some contact and we have discussed using some of their supply of blasters for our off campus events, where we can use blasters,” Cook said. “We have also discussed ways to get the ban of blasters on campus lifted and have linked our Facebook accounts in order to better spread awareness of TNN and TFW.”
One of Humans vs. Zombies’ standard members, sophomore Taylor O’Brien, says he would love to join up with TNN when they manage to make it over to Maryville. O’Brien said the campus setting of Humans vs. Zombies, while interesting, can be limiting too.
“If another group like Humans vs. Zombies was made, I'd gladly join,” O’Brien said. “It's not like the groups would be competing with each other unless they tried to play at the same time.”
Bringing together community for TFW and TNN does not end with gaining new members. The groups are looking into fundraising more as their member numbers rise.
Everyone wins in fundraising scenarios, and it is all for a good cause. Somehow, organizations such as TFW and TNN are pushing the boundaries with what fundraising can be, and they’re making it fun too.
As of now, TFW and TNN have only managed to have one fundraiser, but their steady growth is a hopeful component of increasing fundraising options for the future. The choice to make fundraising a more central part of what TNN and TFW does seems natural, so seeing both organizations support more fundraising is unsurprising.
“So far TFW has done one fundraiser/food drive for a Saint Joseph little food pantry and I hope to do more fundraisers in the future,” Thomas Newby said. “I'm sure we will do them in TNN for Maryville once we are a little more established.”
Everywhere both Nerf toting groups have been there are people coming together. The communities each group has built are sure to continue growing, especially considering TNN’s upcoming Maryville presence.
Those interested in joining are advised to get connected via either group’s Facebook page.