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Tuesday, Jul. 06, 2010

Yakima Valley teen banking on Vineopoly

PROSSER, Wash. -- James Weisz of Prosser might struggle daily with symptoms of Asperger's syndrome, but that didn't stop him from drawing from his right brain to come up with a creative idea for a board game.

He came up with a wine theme for the Townopoly program, a national fundraising project sponsored by Pride Distributors in Missouri.

The project launches with someone coming up with a theme based on the Monopoly game and then selling 40 spaces on the board to businesses at a cost of $175 to $600.

Weisz, 18, knew about the project because his high school came up with a themed game three years ago called Prosseropoly, he said. The project helped pay for a student trip to Washington, D.C.

Weisz, the son of Paul and Kerry Weisz of Prosser, decided to do the same thing when he learned earlier this year he'd been nominated for a People to People Ambassador trip to the United Kingdom this month.

People to People, a Spokane-based nonprofit organization, offers students aged 10-18 the opportunity to travel abroad to foster social friendships and help build a lasting foundation for personal success.

Weisz not only visited 14 wineries to pitch for advertising on his game board, but he also designed the computer graphics for the individual wine properties and for the game's cover.

"I chose the wine industry because there are so many wineries here in Prosser," Weisz said. "It was tough getting started, but it was fun to do it."

He and a friend first began visiting the wineries last winter seeking support and mostly got turned down at first, he said.

"It was a rough road for a while, but we kept at it and eventually we found wineries and businesses who were enthusiastic about it and thought it was a good idea," he said.

The result is Vineopoly, which is for sale at wineries around the Mid-Columbia for $35. He's raised $2,000 of the $7,500 he needs for the trip to Europe. His parents kicked in the extra $5,500 until all the games are sold.

Weisz said he's proud of what he accomplished in designing the game, but he's more excited about visiting Europe.

"We'll be visiting England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and learning the culture and history of each country," he said. "We'll also get to scale a castle wall, though I don't know which one."

Anyone interested in assisting Weisz can call his parents at 509-973-3155 or the Autism Center at 509-396-9230.