Nashua’s Pokémon Go Group gives back to the Community

In today’s techno-savvy world, it’s not uncommon to find people clinging to the virtual world contained in their phones, even amid their real-life surroundings. The latest trend involves individuals following a GPS to travel to different parks, campuses, restaurants and even cities in hopes of capturing the still very popular Pokémon characters via the Pokémon Go app.

Though many might see the insular focus on the latest phone apps as one more barrier to making meaningful human connections, for a large group of Pokémon Go users in Nashua, the popular app is not just a game to escape reality. It’s a very real way of inspiring individuals to be active, social and meaningful contributors of a growing community.

Every month, the world of Pokémon Go hosts a Community Day where active users can meet other players, capture rare Pokémon and increase their XP. Going beyond participating for sake of special gaming perks, the Southern Nashua Pokémon Go group uses the day to initiate a community service project as a way of giving back to the people and place that spawned their own community. They also host a huge pot luck barbecue for everyone who comes out to Benson Park as part of Community Day.

This month, they’ve decided to collect hundreds of school supply donations for the Nashua Back-to-School Drive. Leading the charge on the group’s community service initiative is Fred Perry and Kelly Schroder, the de facto leaders of more than 200 Pokémon Go users.

“Fred Perry has managed to tease out the very generous nature of a group of people who love to come out and play together,” said Liz Racioppi, a group member and assisting coordinator of the back-to-school donation event. “In this group, it really doesn’t matter what team you’re on, everyone helps each other. It’s no leap of faith to see them also come together to be so generous and donate to the community.”

Javian Rivera, age 8, enjoying a Pokemon ball cupcake at the Pokemon Go Community Day Barbecue.

Later in the month, the group will be dropping the donations off at City Hall, where some of the Pokémon Go member will help package and distribute the supplies to various schools around the city.

“This is our second donation drive for the Nashua community,” Perry said. “We’re always looking for new ideas from our members on how we can give back.”

Schroder added, “Pokémon Go is already a great way to bring together all walks of life because everyone can play the game. By giving back to the community, we’re able to do something even bigger than us.”

During their previous Community Day in June, the group collected more than seven boxes of food donations and toiletries for the Nashua Soup Kitchen. This time around, they decided to expand their reach and support students in need of school supplies, some of whom play the game along with their parents as part of the Nashua Pokémon Go group.

Two of the group’s youngest members include Nani Rivera, 6, and Javian Rivera, 8, who not only helped their parents buy school supplies but also worked together to decorate the donation boxes with colorful Pokémon character emblems and phrases.

Nani Rivera, age 6, enjoying a Pokemon ball cupcake at the Pokemon Go Community Day pot luck barbecue.

“We bought binders, pencil sharpeners, note books and even got to draw Pokémon on the boxes,” Nani said. “I love being a part of this and hanging out will all these people.”

The group hopes to continue their trend of not only playing as part of community but giving back to it as well. For upcoming Community Days, they plan to host a winter coat drive and a raffle to benefit disabled veterans.

“We’re a small community that’s growing every day so any way we can give back to a community that gives so much to us is absolutely worth doing,” Perry said.

Liz Racioppi loading back-to-school donation boxes decorated by Nani and Javian Rivera into her car.