Thomas Nabbs and Paloma Aelyon are determined to spread the joy of popular American game corn hole around New Zealand – and raise some money for the Mental Health Foundation along the way.

While most Kiwis haven’t heard of the game, it’s hugely popular in the United States, where Paloma is from.

She and her Kiwi partner Thomas moved to New Zealand from San Francisco in June and have been busy getting their new business Kiwi Corn Hole (KHC) up and running.

“Thomas played corn hole in the US for the first time and thought it was awesome. He said, ‘We need to bring this back to New Zealand’,” says Paloma, who used to work at Google.

How do you play corn hole?

Corn hole originated in the mid-west and is played all over the United States. In it, two teams of two players throw bean bags at a raised board with a hole at the top. The aim is to get the bean bag through the hole and score points. The first team to reach 21 points wins.

“The beauty of corn hole is that it’s a simple, ageless game. What’s special about it is its ability to bring all types of people together. Both young and old can play it. It transcends age, athletic ability and skill… but at the same time it’s fun and competitive,” Paloma says.

Percentage of profits to go to MHF

KCH, which is based in Hamilton, will donate a percentage of its profit to the MHF, an organisation Thomas and Paloma admire hugely. They’ve also donated a board to staff members with the MHF logo printed on it.

“Thomas and I both have friends and family who have experienced depression and bipolar affective disorder so it’s really important to us to give back monetarily and with our time through volunteer work.”

She says it’s important to have an organisation like the MHF supporting people who need help.

“Globally, mental health is bit of a taboo subject and particularly so in New Zealand, where if you experience pain [mental or physical] you keep quiet and push through. There are benefits to that, but also a lot of detriment because people don’t talk about what they’re going through.”

Each Monday evening, the KCH team take the game to Hilda Ross Retirement Village in Hamilton. “The residents love it. It’s a great social event for them. It brings them together and reminds them they can still play and compete.”

The game is also proving to be popular with Kiwi kids, businesses and university students.

“Corn hole brings people together, gets them outside and gets them moving, which helps everybody feel good.”