ABOUT HUNTER BURTON MEMORIAL INC.
Hunter Burton Memorial Inc. was officially founded in 2014 by the Burton family as a way to honor their son Hunter Burton. Tragically Hunter took his own life in 2013 after a long struggle with depression and addiction. For his family, father Greg, mother Dona, and sister Casey, dealing with the loss was a struggle. After a long period of grieving, the Burtons decided to use their tragedy to educate and generate awareness about suicide and utilized Hunter’s favorite hobby as the tool to do so.
Starting in 2014 the first outreach program was developed in the form of a major Magic the Gathering tournament. Held at the Fort Worth Convention Center, the first annual Hunter Burton Memorial Open took place in Hunter’s birth month of March as a way to celebrate his life. Spearheaded by Jeff Zandi, a local legend in the Magic the Gathering community and close friend of Hunter’s, the first event boasted a generous $10,000 prize pool and had more than 150 attendees! Through the family’s donations and efforts, Jeff’s work in the gaming community, and a slew of volunteers from across the country, the annual event has grown each year.
The foundation has now grown past its single large event each year and begun expanding outreach to other areas of the gaming industry. In 2018 the event celebrated its 5th anniversary at the Hurst Conference Center in Hurst, TX. More than 600 people attended the event and for the first time ever thousands more were able to watch from home via a live stream. In 2019, a new era for Hunter Burton Memorial Inc. began as the non-profit increased its outreach into local hobby and gaming stores across the country to help grow awareness about the high risk of suicide in the gaming community. The annual event had more than 1,200 turnstyle attendees and it launched our new Community Impact Initiative (CII) program. Join us on our journey to celebrate Hunter Burton and do our part to help save lives by teaching the power of kindness, inclusion, and proactive friendship through gaming!
ABOUT OUR TEAM
Director of Operations – Erin Giddings
Erin has been involved in the gaming industry for more than 20 years. Starting his career working at a local hobby shop at age 15 he quickly rose to new heights in the industry. After graduating from Northwood University in 2004 he took on a role with a major gaming manufacturer as a Community Manager operating as a front-face for the company to retail partners and distribution agencies. After years of managing large scale trade show booths at events like San Diego Comic Con, Gen Con, and Wizard World he turned his efforts to opening his own business. In 2008 he opened Area 51 Gaming & Collectibles which by 2013 had grown to be one of the largest game stores in Texas. After selling his business in 2014 he took a role with an online retail gaming company as the Director of Operations where he led a team in building a solid ecommerce infrastructure and online sales structure. Erin has volunteered his efforts to the Hunter Burton Memorial Open since its beginning in 2014, but in 2017 moved into a more impactful role becoming the Director of Operations for the non-profit organization.
Tournament Organizer – Joe Klopchic
Joe has been a pillar of the Magic the Gathering community for most of his adult life. He dedicated most of his free time to the pursuit of becoming a judge for MTG and in the last few years reached Level 3 status, travelling all over the world to officiate some of the largest events. Over his many years serving the MTG community, Joe has run a multitude of large gaming events and is highly respected in the industry for his impressive attention to detail and organization. As a friend of Hunter Burton and a close friend of Jeff Zandi, Joe was one of the original four creators of the Hunter Burton Memorial Foundation in 2013 and has been involved with every year to date. In 2017, Joe moved in to assist with event management on a larger scale alongside Jeff Zandi and after Jeff’s passing he moved into a full-scale role doing an amazing job to fill the massive shoes Zanman’s legacy left. Joe and his wonderful wife Emily are diligently committed to the cause and are an integral part of continuing the foundation’s work of spreading awareness about suicide in the gaming community.
Tournament Organizer – Jeff Zandi
Jeff has been a staple in the Magic the Gathering community since its inception in 1993. Zanman as he’s referred to as by his peers in the community was an organizer of local North Texas Magic tournaments through 1990’s and early 2000’s, eventually being the head judge and staff organizer for Aussie Fox events. In addition he was a founding member of Team Dallas, a competitive group whose members included poker success story David Williams and author Scott Baxter. Team Dallas later became known as the Texas Guildmages. Founded and run by Jeff Zandi, the Guildmages have become the longest running competitive gaming group in trading card game industry meeting weekly since the 90’s. The Texas Guildmages have a laundry list of success stories in competitive Magic the Gathering events including the foundation’s namesake Hunter Burton. Over the years Jeff has been a contributing author on major industry websites such as Star City Games. In addition, Jeff is one of the most respected Magic judges in the industry, having judged hundreds of events including some of the largest the game has to offer. In 2013 when he was approached by the Burton Family Jeff jumped at the chance to honor his late friend Hunter and spearheaded the creation of the annual Hunter Burton Memorial Open. As one of the faces for the organization, Jeff has helped make the annual outreach event a massive success and continues to operate as the lead tournament organizer for the HBMO.
ABOUT HUNTER BURTON
Dustin Hunter Burton was born in Fort Worth but grew up on a farm with plenty of space to move around in rural Joshua, Texas. This is where Hunter and his sister Casey grew up and spent most of their school years. Hunter was almost two years older than his sister. He was always very protective of her while also picking on her in that way that big brothers often do. Very young Hunter would steal Casey’s bottle of milk and then tell his parents that the deer statue in the front yard had taken it. He wouldn’t let Casey sit in the front seat of the car EVER and when they were a little older and in school together Hunter protected her from bullies but also kept would-be boyfriends away as well.
Hunter played football in middle school and tried other sports before finding his first real competitive love, golf. Hunter earned his letterman’s jacket in his freshman year at Joshua High School as a member of the varsity golf team. Hunter started playing Magic: the Gathering while in high school and his mom drove him to the Comic Boxx in Cleburne in order to play. It wasn’t long before Hunter was competing in tournaments, first in stores like Shotokan in the mid-cities, Area 51 in Grapevine and pretty soon at Pro Tour Qualifiers and Grand Prix events all over the state and beyond.
Hunter’s success in tournament play came quickly. His first professional event was Pro Tour Charleston in June, 2006. He played in his second Pro Tour event in Kobe, Japan a few months later. Along the way, Hunter was starting to finish high enough in Grand Prix events to win money. It started with a hundred bucks at Grand Prix Dallas in February, 2007. A few months later it was $400 at Grand Prix San Francisco. Then he played in another Pro Tour event, this time in Geneva, Switzerland. His first professional level success came in August, 2008, when he finished in the top eight of Grand Prix Denver and earned $1500. He had a finish almost that high at Grand Prix Seattle in May, 2009. Then came Hunter’s greatest day in the sun. Hunter finished fourth at Pro Tour Austin, winning $13,000. He followed that success with two more Pro Tour appearances in 2010 including San Diego and Amsterdam. The Amsterdam trip resulted in a 34th place finish and another thousand-dollar payday.
Distractions outside of the game soon took Hunter away from competitive Magic. Personal events started weighing on the young man and, while dealing with depression, Hunter Burton took his own life in July, 2013.