Dakota County paintball teams to shoot for a cause

Lakeville paintball charity game to benefit pediatric heart patients

Players at MN Pro Paintball should wear long pants and shirts — camouflage is optional. (Photo submitted)
Players at MN Pro Paintball should wear long pants and shirts — camouflage is optional. (Photo submitted)

After years of warfare, worldwide collapse pits two surviving North American factions against each other in the year 3010, each fighting for the last remaining food and supplies.

That scenario could be the premise of a movie or video game, but instead is available for everyone to experience live in Lakeville on May 19 at MN Pro Paintball, where participants’ involvement may also help save a child’s life.

The event is the fifth annual Challenge for Children’s Big Game experience, a fundraiser to benefit the Minneapolis Children’s Hospital cardiac unit.

Hundreds of players are expected to participate in the scenario-based mission, played on MN Pro Paintball’s 200 acres at 22554 Texas Ave. Each team will be led by Navy SEALS Larry Yatch and Isaiah Maring from Sealed Mindset, a firearms studio and training center in New Hope.

Maring is scheduled to parachute into the game, according to Erika Emerick, MN Pro Paintball marketing manager.

Players can bring their own equipment or rent it at MN Pro Paintball but must use the company’s environmentally safe paintballs, which will discounted that day to $55 for 2,000. Paintball guns brought in must meet the company’s safety standards; fully automatic guns are not allowed.

All proceeds will be donated to the Children’s Hospital cardiac unit, a charity that holds significance for MN Pro Paintball founder and CEO Matt Ames, 29.

He was rushed there shortly after being born with a congenital heart defect and has been a patient there ever since. At 18, he received a pacemaker, but his medical challenges are no match for his determination to be active and engaged, Emerick said.

“He’s the most energetic, active person I’ve ever met,” Emerick said. “He’s a fighter. He still has issues, but he never lets that hold him back.”

In the past four years  the MN Pro Paintball event has raised more than $100,000 for the cardiac unit, and it’s growing in popularity.

Last year, the event drew almost 500 players. This year, organizers have already raised $35,000 in corporate donations and are planning for at least 700 players, who will use every field for the adventure.

Paintball props include giant pipelines, woods and a 10,000-square foot castle where teams will attempt to gather supplies to pick up points for the win.

Everyone is invited to play, but there is also entertainment for those who would rather cheer the teams on, Emerick said.

A bounce house and face painting will be on site for tots, and an impact paintball shooting range designed for children will be open for them to try the sport.

Numerous businesses will also have booths on site, including Dodge of Burnsville, Buffalo Wild Wings and Health Source Chiropractic; Emerick said there is room for more sponsors and welcomes those who are interested.

JNH Band will play during lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m., and a raffle with prizes including theater tickets and paintball supplies will be held when the awards presentation starts at 5 p.m.

“It’s a great cause,” Emerick said. “It’s a great way to get out in the community and try something new.”

The gates open at 7 a.m. and games are set to start at 10 a.m. Registration is available at the door on the day of the event or online at challengeforchildrens.com.

“This is a lot of fun,” Emerick said. “It’s a different type of charity event.”