Old hobby brings new generation together

Published: May. 2, 2023 at 4:43 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Monday afternoon at South Middle School, you’ll find all kinds of wheeling and dealing going on as the Card Collecting Club is in full swing.

The fun interactions are what founder and South teacher Brian Wiltgen imagined when he started the club.

“I saw a lot of kids kind of being withdrawn at school. A lot of kids would have their heads in their devices after school and at home, not really socializing. I remember as a kid, one of my favorite things to do was collect cards and get with my friends. We started the club last year and it was a huge success.”

The club is much more than just trading sports cards.

“You look at the core values of honesty, fairness, respect, cooperation, and all these different values come out in card collecting. They might not know it, but they’re learning math. They’re reading and they’re writing about things. It’s a hobby that embraces so many different values and so many different things that are good.”

The bond that the students in the club have reaches farther than the Monday afternoon gatherings.

“Probably the best thing in this club is the friendships I’ve seen. There are kids that came into this club that didn’t know each other and now I see walking together in the hallways. I see them talking about going to the local card shops and that’s what means the most to me. They are forming friendships and getting away from that isolation feeling we all had a few years back.”

With the success the Card Collecting Club has had at South, Wiltgen has formed an non-profit and expanded it’s reach to other area schools.

“We’ve been very fortunate to get donations from people and that’s allowed me to send cards to 13 different schools around the area and 20 classrooms. The thing that makes my heart smile is getting pictures back from the teachers of the kids opening packs and just the joy on their faces and seeing them socialize.”

And the Card Collecting Club hopes to continue growing and bringing more students to the hobby.

“This is something that’s free for kids. There’s no fees involved. It’s kindness from people that a lot of these kids don’t even know. They’re willing to say, I remember myself as a kid and I love collecting. They want to share the love of the hobby with these kids. And it’s just an amazing thing to see.”