As 2016 comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to thank you, our community, for all the support you’ve shown Gamers Outreach, and the service you’ve provided to help others level up.
When I consider what this organization has become since our founding, I feel grateful. Grateful for the people who’ve volunteered long hours to help make our programs a reality. Grateful for all the gamers who’ve attended our events over the years. And most importantly, grateful we’re collectively able to serve kids and families experiencing hospitalization.
It’s truly inspiring to see the difference games make for children in hospitals. Certainly, on a surface level, games provide a source of entertainment in an environment where kids may otherwise not have access to many activities. However, the impact of gaming goes far beyond a simple sense of fun. We’ve seen nurses, child life specialists, and doctors, use video games as a way to aid the healthcare process. Whether it be for distraction purposes, rehabilitation, or providing children with an outlet for socialization, games have tremendous potential to be used as tools by those in healthcare fields to improve a child’s quality of life and enhance recovery.
Thinking about the future of Gamers Outreach, and how our identity will continue to evolve, two core concepts come to mind:
Firstly, we see ourselves as providers of hardware and software for the hospital environment. We construct physical tools that enable children to have access to video games. Currently, we express this (mostly) through Project GO Kart, our initiative which places portable video game kiosks within pediatric hospitals. Started as a one-off project in 2009, this single program now exists within 19 hospitals across the United States, including a veterans hospital.
From our discussions with hospital staff, we’re told between 6 – 8 children per day benefit from each GO Kart, which collectively means the program is supporting an estimated 105,120 children per year. Literally every day, kids and parents continue to benefit from the contributions of our donors, and we’re hearing about it.
The impact of a single GO Kart is measured across many years – and we still don’t know what that end lifespan is quite yet. Our first unit still exists within C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, and is regularly used by staff.
At the start of 2015, we believed Project GO Kart was supporting approximately 26,000 patients. Since then, the impact of the program has quadrupled. We expect similar growth as we roll out the new generation of GO Karts in early 2017.
The second concept that comes to mind is this: we see Gamers Outreach as a community force. This organization, to us, represents an outlet for the gaming community to channel its passion towards a productive, positive force for charitable good. Whether it’s been through streaming marathons, events like Gamers for Giving, or volunteer opportunities within the hospital, our shared love for gaming has helped us mobilize to serve people in need.
Taking this to a deeper level, in 2015, we announced the Player 2 initiative, a program that invites gamers to apply their knowledge within hospitals to serve patients and staff. We’ve since interviewed multiple volunteers who’ve helped pilot the program, including Ryan Henyard, Jon Shim, and Dave Anderson. We know Player 2 has been a rewarding experience for both volunteers, and the patients and staff they’re able to support. However, unlike Project GO Kart, we’ve also noticed Player 2 requires a bit more active-management. It takes time recruiting and managing the volunteer experience prior to each new cycle, and hospitals need to bear some responsibility in guiding volunteers, ensuring they’re utilized for the purpose intended. Player 2 also requires a significant commitment from volunteers (6 months+), as hospitals must often invest to train each new person who steps forward to get involved. In saying this, we hope to see Player 2 exist in at least 3 hospitals by the end of 2017 as we continue to explore how the program could exist more widely, and adapt to the unique context of each hospital.
Speaking of volunteer opportunities, this year, we also announced the dawn of what we’re calling the “Gamers Outreach Race Crew.” Throughout 2017, we’ll be seeking volunteers to assist with GO Kart deliveries. This will be a limited time commitment ( 1 – 4 hours on a particular day) that will provide gamers an opportunity to support their local hospitals, and help oversee GO Karts delivered across the nation. If that sounds like something of interest, consider getting involved here.
None of this growth or increased impact would be possible without the support of financial contributions from the gaming community. Year over year, Gamers Outreach has continued to be primarily funded by community driven events, and community-backed donations. We’ve taken careful steps to ensure donor contributions are used for their intended purpose. In 2015, 83% of Gamers Outreach expenses were program related (independently verified by Warmels & Comstock). While we’re not quite large enough to be rated by the likes of Charity Navigator or The BBB, it’s generally recognized that charities are considered efficient if at least 65% of expenses are program related. This is something we’re very proud of, and we’re thankful to the gaming community and our donors for continuing to invest trust in our efforts as we continue to work towards improving the impact our programs have. For those curious, our full 2015 Form 990 is available here.
And of course, how could any summary not include a mention of Gamers for Giving? For those not familiar, each year, Gamers Outreach hosts a competitive gaming event and LAN party called Gamers for Giving. It’s an event that brings together all parts of the gaming community for a weekend of doing good, and playing games. Since its inception in 2008, it’s become one of the largest independent LAN parties in North America. This past March, we moved the event into a larger venue, and successfully raised $172,000+ in support of Gamers Outreach programs. In 2017, we’ll once again be returning to the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center on April 1st and 2nd, with our sights set on a $200,000 fundraising goal. This will certainly be the largest fundraiser we’ve ever conducted, and we can’t wait to chase down the goal with all our attendees and supporters online. If you’re near Michigan or feel like making the trip, I invite you to join us! Registration will open on January 13th, and information for the event will be posted on GamersforGiving.org.
From everyone at Gamers Outreach, our team would like to thank you for your support in 2016! We’re so grateful to be doing this work, and we hope you’ll get involved with the cause throughout 2017.
Have a safe and healthy new year! We’ll see you on the other side!
Founder, Gamers Outreach