Wait, what?

During the summer of 2006, a 16-year-old high school student named Zach Wigal found himself stuck indoors with a case of mono. In lieu of sports practice, Wigal developed an interest in competitive video game tournaments and began organizing his own grassroots events upon returning to school.

In March of 2007, more than three hundred individuals had registered to participate in a Halo 2 tournament organized by Wigal and his friends. Together, the teenagers rented their high school cafeteria to facilitate the event. They spent months gathering resources for one of their hometown’s first-ever esports tournaments.

Three days before the event was scheduled to take place, protest from a local public safety official forced the tournament’s cancellation. According to a voicemail left for the school district’s superintendent, it was the opinion of the public safety officer that content in games like Halo was “corrupting the minds of America’s youth.” He deemed the gaming tournament a “hazard to the public safety of the community,” concerned kids were “training themselves to kill” playing video games.

Still determined to host a tournament, Wigal and his friends began organizing a new event to illustrate the positive impact gamers can make when they come together to play video games.

In 2008, Gamers for Giving was born, a competitive gaming tournament and LAN party that provided gamers with an opportunity to play video games while raising money for charity.

In the process of planning the new tournament, Gamers Outreach Foundation (Gamers Outreach) was established. While the original purpose of the organization was to facilitate events like Gamers for Giving, the newly founded 501(c)(3) began taking on a life of its own.

As interest in Gamers for Giving grew, so did the scope of Gamers Outreach’s mission. In the process of evaluating charitable causes, Wigal was introduced to staff at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Wigal discovered the hospital patients had frequent need for bedside activities, and it was quickly realized Gamers Outreach could provide something more specific: accessible play for kids during treatment.

After spending six months volunteering within the hospital, the first “GO Kart” was created – a portable, medical-grade video game kiosk that provided entertainment to children unable to leave their rooms.

That discovery and eagerness to help caused Gamers Outreach to blossom into a widespread organization. Equipped with a belief the world is better when kids can play, Gamers Outreach now supports programs within a multitude of hospitals. The organization is focused on creating environments where activity is easily prioritized alongside treatment.

From a bunch of high school kids with an interest in hosting video game tournaments to helping thousands of children per year in hospitals, Gamers Outreach has come a long way. The organization’s vision has evolved to ensure children in hospitals everywhere have access to relief and activities.

Interested in helping others level up? You can make a difference for your fellow hospitalized gamers too. Swing over to our Donate page to learn how you can get involved!