The Game Loft in Action

Fostering belonging through food, friends, and safety year-round

School vacation should be a time for kids to have fun and be carefree.  Unfortunately, the reality is that many kids are left isolated and lonely when school doors close with families still busy working and long distances separating them from their peers.  That’s why at the Game Loft we’re open year-round offering free van-transportation to and from our site in Belfast during school breaks.  

This April Vacation at the Loft, we got outside to enjoy the changing weather with the start of Live Action Combat season.  Rio ran an epic Star Wars miniatures battle that all came down to a square off between the Imperial Forces and a small, scrappy troop of bounty hunters.  In the end, Henry’s massive Imperial army managed to overwhelm the bounty hunters and claim victory!  The week was capped with a special Pax Britannica event hosted at First Baptist Church (more to come on that soon), and a treat of blueberry pie for Friday night dessert. 

I Know ME in Action

Observe, Reason, Plan, Create


What’s the difference between people and fish? This should have a snappier punch-line than I can offer but in short, the difference is instinct. Fish live their lives according to instinct and fate but humans must be taught to observe, reason, plan and create. 

At the Craig Brook Fish Hatchery recently the I Know ME cohort 1 learned about the lives of Atlantic Salmon from birth in the hatchery to release in the wild and then returning to the hatchery to deposit their eggs. I Know ME Cohort 1 visited a cohort of salmon that have been in the hatchery since 2018, the year the kids entered the I Know ME program. The salmon will be released later this year, but our kids have one more year with the program. While the fish have spent the last five years just swimming and eating the kids have traveled around the state, seen sights, met people, and learned about themselves and their environment. 

Cohort 5, who entered the I Know ME program in February 2022 are just beginning their journey to self-realization. Last month they and their mentors went to the State House to meet their elected representatives and to see the state house and senate in session. They began the process of observation, discernment, and appreciation. Looking into the capitol rotunda they observed the beauty of the building and got an inkling of the dedication and service our elected officials bring to bear. 

  Cohort 5 met with Nate Wadsworth, Ray’s cousin and supporter of the Game Loft who once played his ancestor, General Peleg Wadsworth, in a Game Loft historical re-creation. They also met Paige Zieglaar and Chip Curry, the senator from Waldo County, who challenged them to follow a bill going through the legislature. As 7th graders these students are teetering at the edge of childhood but beginning to see their adult lives ahead.

 After a long morning of observing, considering, and learning it was important for the kids to cut loose. You can become a better adult if you have fully explored childhood so we took them to the playground to let off some steam. I Know ME stands for knowledge of the state and knowledge of self, because both are important. Because we don’t operate on instinct it is crucial to have this knowledge. Because unlike salmon who run on instinct, we believe that for humans “If you know who you are and where you’re from, you can find where you’re going.” 

I Know ME In Action: Our AmeriCorps Members

“It is through the idealism of youth that man catches sight of truth, and in that idealism he possesses a wealth which he must never exchange for anything else.”  — Albert Schweitzer

March 14-20 is AmeriCorps Week. AmeriCorps has been an important part of the work done at the Game Loft/I Know ME for many years. Our AmeriCorps members have provided direct service to Waldo County’s most vulnerable population: its children and youth. Members use their unique talents to serve as mentors for youth and examples of lives well lived. AmeriCorps members in this program strengthen our community while learning about themselves, their state, and their country. 

“Once I was young and now I am old” but I have never seen an AmeriCorps member who was deficient in the wealth of idealism. Their insight into this truth gives me strength and courage and keeps me participating in the AmeriCorps program. This year in the Game Loft/I Know ME program we are fortunate to have four young, idealistic, and capable AmeriCorps members who are helping young people know who they are, where they are from, and shining a light on where they may be going. It is my pleasure to introduce you to four AmeriCorps members who are changing the world for the better.

Wyatt Manieri is self-effacing. He leads quietly and without fanfare but with a genuine concern for those who excel, and more especially, for those falling by the wayside. He shows curiosity and concern for everyone he meets. As a recent college graduate he is anxious to learn about himself during his AmeriCorps year and to challenge himself to become a man who has made the right decisions in life. He wants to open a path for youth to help them find something significant to believe in. He thinks that if you find a youth’s deep interests that you can instill hope that will last even during the most trying times. He says that at the core of his beliefs is love. He believes that unselfish love is a route to happiness. Love of friends and family, community and country gives him contentment and meaning to life. He expresses his love for humankind through kindness and respect. At the end of his life he hopes his children will remember him a man who was humble, grateful, and content. 

Molly Thibault is expansive, extroverted, and enthusiastic. She is a natural leader with a great sense of organization and time management. She graduated from Unity College this February and has known for years that she wanted to have direct experience working with youth and showing them the glories of living in Maine. Her view of happiness is access to the outdoors and space to roam. Because the environment has been so important to her she hopes to share that enthusiasm with kids. She wants to be a role model who leads by example as well as opening doors for those who face barriers in their lives. Molly believes that there is enough for all if we use our resources wisely. She believes that small initiatives will someday pay big dividends for our communities, our state, and the world. She hopes her legacy will be: “Molly spent her life helping the world by teaching youth to be resilient and strong.”

Zachariah Dewey is a Mainer who embodies this state’s long tradition of service. Zach is in his second year as an AmeriCorps member for the Game Loft/I Know ME. He is a Peace Corps alumnus with a Master’s degree. What attracts such a highly qualified person to our program? He values idealism more than wealth and creativity more than commerce. This year he is raising awareness of the potential of the program and working to improve every aspect of the Game Loft/I Know ME service delivery for youth. He knows that in the end the good memories he leaves with others will be his greatest gifts to the world. Zach is a gamer and uses that enthusiasm to create relationships with youth and to give them hope. He says, “I won’t last forever but games will last. If we can play, then we can hope.” Someday he wants to found a coffee-house/bar with a game room where people can leave their problems at the door and create good times and happy memories. He hopes that someday the Game Loft/I Know ME kids will remember him as someone who facilitated good times and cool adventures. Zach says, “I see the world not as it is but as it should be and can be with my help.” 

Jeremiah King is the kind of young man who will help you walk through life, no matter what the challenges may be.  From long association with Jeremiah we know he will never let us down. Jeremiah joined the Game Loft when he was 8 years old. He graduated from Thomas College last June and returned to the Game Loft/I Know ME as an AmeriCorps member this January. Jeremiah thinks before he speaks and considers before he acts. When he speaks it is with wisdom and when he acts it is with deliberation. But when he plays he is creative, joyful, and spontaneous. In the year ahead he hopes to gain more real world experience that will help him grow as a person. He wants to develop deeper friendships with colleagues, youth, and community members in order to become his best self. 

AmeriCorps members serve for one or two years and during that time they help to change the world. We celebrate and thank all the dedicated men and women who have served the Game Loft/I Know ME through AmeriCorps. We are grateful for your dedication and sacrifice.

Patricia Estabrook is the co-Founding Director of the Game Loft/I Know ME and an AmeriCorps alumna. 

Virtual Game Loft Coming July 17th!

Greetings! We are writing to let you know that the Game Loft has gone digital during the COVID pandemic. We honestly have no idea when we will be able to open up the Loft safely in the near future, but we want to make sure that our members can still find ways to socialize and do the activities they enjoy. To that end, the Game Loft has established a server on Discord, which will enable our members to stay in communication with each other while we play our games virtually.

What is Discord? Discord is a free platform that people (primarily gamers) use to create chat servers allowing them to communicate in real time while playing games. Traditionally, it has been used for video gamers, but we’ve created a server that will allow us to chat in real time while playing role play, board, and card games. The server has “channels” that are dedicated to the different activities we do at the Loft. For example, the Savage Room area has channels for all the active role play games (RPGs), the Board room has channels for board game chat and setting up on Boardgamearena. We’ve created a chat channel for our Youth Board so they can still have their bi-weekly meetings. We have a kitchen channel where we post what is being served for lunch in case the kids want to come by and pick up a lunch to go. We even have places for the kids to post memes, pet pictures, and their artwork and poetry!

Admission to the Game Loft Discord server is by invitation only – open only to members, adult volunteers, staff. We require that all the kids, adult volunteers, and staff have handles that easily identify who they are (I’m BossChris, for example). We have the same behavior and participation expectations that we do at the Loft, plus a few new rules that help govern online behavior. We want the kids to be able to interact with each other during this strange time and to do the activities they love, but also to use a space that is safe for them to do so.

The Discord solution allows us a little more flexibility schedule-wise. As the schedule evolves, there might be games that occur outside traditional Game Loft hours. But we also ask the members to be sensible in their use of the platform. We’ve already established, for example, that there should be no posting to the server before 9 am and after 9 pm.

Here are the requirements to take part:

  • Participants must be at least 13 years of age.
  • Participants must already be members of the Game Loft with membership long forms on file.
  • Participants must have a valid email that they check regularly.
  • Parents/caregivers of participants must provide a phone number and are strongly encouraged to provide a valid email address.
  • Parents/caregivers of participants must fill out and sign a supplemental permission form that will be kept on file with the participant’s membership form. It can be printed and mailed to us at the Loft at 78A Main St, Belfast, 04915 or scanned and emailed back to Chris (c.donley@thegameloft.org) with the subject line “membership – (child’s first name)”.

In addition, depending on the activities participants want to take part in, members will need to create accounts on supplemental platforms besides Discord that are designed for our activities, such as (but not limited to) Board Game Arena, Roll20, Cockatrice, and Tabletop Simulator, depending where their interests lay.

If your child is interested in joining us on the Discord platform and meets the above requirements, please email Chris at c.donley@thegameloft.org to get instructions on how to get him or her started.

We will officially launch the Game Loft online program on Friday, July 17 at our End of the Year Zoom party. Updates will be sent via our E-courier and on our Facebook page.

Thanks, we look forward to hearing from you!

Chris Donley
Game Loft Program Manager