In our annual report covering 2017 – 2018, Zach Wigal – founder of Gamers Outreach – reflects on our 10 year anniversary, the expansion of our programs, and the impact video games and the video game community are capable of making in hospitals worldwide. For clarity: this report provides a summary of our 2017 financials, which influenced program activities fulfilled in both 2017 & 2018. Distinctions are noted where applicable.
Achievement unlocked: provide entertainment to hospitalized children for 10 years.
The time between 2017 – 2018 marked a special transitional period for Gamers Outreach. As many of our supporters are aware, it was during this past year we celebrated the 10th anniversary of our annual fundraiser, Gamers for Giving. It’s been a decade since a group of high school kids first organized a video game tournament that spawned a movement dedicated to providing entertainment to hospitalized children. And wow, we sure are proud of what’s been accomplished so far!
Before I reflect on the growth we’ve experienced since our last report, I’d like to talk about our mission, sense of identity, and provide perspective on why we feel this work is so important. Internally, our team has crafted a handful of “core beliefs” which guide our program implementation, messaging, and priorities as an organization.
Our Vision, Mission & Core Beliefs
Gamers Outreach is a nonprofit organization that provides equipment, technology, and software to help patients cope with treatment inside hospitals. We exist to inspire and heal patients through the power of play.
This sense of purpose is guided by five tenets:
- We are gamers.
We are video game enthusiasts on a mission to help our fellow gamers in hospitals. We are stewards of an organization that serves as a source of relief for hospital patients, and a conduit for video game enthusiasts to give back through their passion. We have dedicated ourselves to ensuring Gamers Outreach is a trusted charity for gamers and those supported by our work. We are committed to games being used for good. We are a gaming brand that enables interactive experiences in hospitals.
- We inspire and heal through play.
We believe access to recreation helps enrich a person’s quality of life. This is especially evident while a person is being treated in a healthcare environment. Our organization provides resources that help make video game content readily available and easy to manage in hospitals.
- Why do we do it.
Undergoing medical treatment can often be a scary and isolating experience, especially for young people. We believe video games are diverse platform capable of improving the patient experience. Our programs aid the healing process by providing entertainment, relief, socialization, and a sense of normalcy to families and patients spending time inside hospitals.
- We value community.
Our organization was founded by a community of gamers determined to make a difference. Our programs are driven by community involvement. We believe the video game community is capable of doing incredible good. We hope to inspire fellow gamers to engage with their local hospitals.
- We are stewards – helping others level up!
Our staff and volunteers embody the identity, mission, and community values of Gamers Outreach programs. We are responsible for ensuring our programs add value to the lives of patients, their families, and hospital staff. Our team bridges the gap between the gaming community and the hospital environment. Every action on behalf of the organization should prioritize the well-being of our community and those we support in hospitals.
In our time working with hospitals nationwide, we’ve observed healthcare professionals face two primary challenges in relation to providing patients with digital recreation:
- Many hospitals are not equipped with entertainment devices that make gaming content readily accessible to patients (e.g. consoles, controllers, monitors, games, etc.)
- When technology is present, it can be difficult for hospital staff to manage entertainment due to a number of factors (unfamiliarity with equipment, existing responsibilities, ease of mobility, bandwidth limitations, etc.)
The majority of our resources are dedicated towards addressing these challenges through two initiatives:
- Project GO Kart: Gamers Outreach constructs portable video game kiosks called “GO Karts” (Gamers Outreach Karts). These kiosks enable nurses to easily provide bedside activities to children unable to leave their rooms in hospitals. Each GO Kart is equipped with a gaming console, monitor, and assortment of games. The carts provide a safe, flexible, and efficient way to ensure kids have access to entertainment and coping mechanisms during hospitalization. Each unit also has an internal lift mechanism, which allows healthcare staff to adjust the GO Kart to a patient’s bedside, accommodating a variety of medical scenarios when a patient’s mobility may be limited.
- Player 2: Player 2 is a program where gamers have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they’ve acquired through gaming in a manner that supports patients and staff within hospitals. By volunteering, gamers become “digital activity managers” and serve by managing equipment, providing tech support, and playing games with patients. Many hospitals receive game donations, but without proper staffing to manage inventory at a mass scale, it can become difficult for tech donations to properly serve patients as intended. Player 2 helps address this issue by ensuring knowledgeable individuals are present to distribute technology and exercise its positive benefits.
In our last annual report, we noted Gamers Outreach programs were impacting as many as 236,000 patients across ~30 hospitals.
Thanks to investments in scalability, (shoutout to Child’s Play and the team at PUBG Corp.) and with support from the gaming community – we’re proud to share we’ve now constructed GO Karts for nearly 200 hospitals!!
While a portion of these GO Karts are still in the process of being scheduled for delivery through Q1 and Q2 of 2019, just under 500 units comprise our collective fleet. When fully deployed, the GO Karts we’ve constructed will be capable of supporting between 1.1 – 1.4 million patients annually!!!
That’s a 366% increase in the number of children and families with access to play!
Our impact estimate is based on usage feedback we’ve received from hospital staff. On average, we believe between 6 – 8 children benefit from a single GO Kart per day.
That said, there may be instances where the same patient(s) use a GO Kart multiple times in a given period. There may be other instances where a GO Kart is left in a playroom and enjoyed by 20+ patients per day. Our patient impact estimate reflects what we believe to be “potential capacity” for use, given the number of GO Karts which exist in hospitals.
Nothing quite illustrates growth like a friendly GIF, so I wanted to show you the below image to help provide perspective on our expansion. The first portion of this GIF illustrates the number of hospitals we supported ~early 2016. The second image shows approximate locations of hospitals we’ve built GO Karts for within the U.S. as of this report*:
As you can see, it’s been a busy couple years, and it’s all been made possible thanks to support from our fellow gamers.
In addition to building GO Karts, we’ve taken an active role in promoting volunteerism within the gaming community.
As GO Karts are deployed across regions, opportunities are available for video game enthusiasts to assist with setup and tech support inquiries that arise throughout a GO Kart’s lifespan. In fact, the majority of GO Karts we’ve delivered in the past year have been setup by local volunteers!
For those with interest in making an on-going commitment, Player 2 has become available in 7 hospitals nationwide. Facilities participating in the program include…
- C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
- Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children (Huntsville, Alabama)
- Children’s Hospital of Michigan (Detroit, Michigan)
- Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California)
- Golisano Children’s Hospital (Syracuse, New York)
- Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital (Chicago, Illinois)
- St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
It’s worth noting: each hospital is capable of supporting a limited quantity of Player 2 volunteers, and not all applicants may have the opportunity to participate in the initiative due to availability. That said, applying to volunteer is certainly worthwhile, and may still result in opportunities to help setup GO Karts or assist a hospital with tech support!
We’ve withheld creating a dedicated web page for the Player 2 initiative as we’re still collecting feedback and working to establish cadence with partnered hospitals. For those interested in getting involved – make sure to submit a volunteer application and continue checking the Gamers Outreach blog for updates on volunteer opportunities!
Thanks to a number of generous donors, we’ve been able to expand the impact of Gamers Outreach programs – helping more patients and families than ever before!
2017 marked the first year Gamers Outreach entered seven-figure fundraising territory, generating more than $1.3 million in monetary contributions. Our fundraising growth was made possible thanks to broader awareness of our initiatives, and an increase in overall support across multiple revenue categories (individual donors, stream campaigns, sponsors, grants, earned program revenue, etc).
We’re proud to share in that same year, 80% of our total expenses were directly related to Gamers Outreach programs (independently verified by Warmels & Comstock). As you can see from the scale of our outreach, these funds made a tremendous difference in our ability to deliver entertainment to hospitalized patients and their families. For those interested, our full Form 990 can be downloaded here.
Of course, our annual fundraiser Gamers for Giving has continued to unite the gaming community in support of hospitalized patients. By seat count, we believe Gamers for Giving is currently the third largest BYOC LAN party in North America behind QuakeCon and DreamHack. While that’s not a data point we concern ourselves with too much, it’s something I think our community can take great pride in – knowing so many of us come together each year to make an incredible difference in the lives of others.
We celebrated the event’s 10th anniversary this past April, and raised $772K+ for Gamers Outreach programs (to be noted in next year’s annual report). That result was made possible thanks to attendee entry fees, an incredible gift from PUBG Corp, and the generosity of a number of streamers who rallied their communities in support of this year’s effort.
Gamers for Giving 2019 will take place on March 23rd & 24th at the EMU Convocation Center. We can’t wait to usher in a new decade of giving, and hope you’ll join our efforts to make a difference in hospitals! Registration will open in early January, and information for the event can be found at www.GamersforGiving.org.
Defining Success & The Future
When I think about the future of Gamers Outreach, I try to imagine what the perfect entertainment experience looks like in the hospital environment. I then ask “what can we do as gamers to make that a reality?”
To that end, we’ve been working to define success metrics that assess impact beyond our intuition. We know from personal experience the value games have in our lives. We’ve also clearly observed the sense of joy and relief games help produce for people in hospitals. Going forward, we intend to begin quantifying these observations through a handful of metrics which collectively help us evaluate the “success” of Gamers Outreach programs:
- Equipment / Content Saturation. Each hospital environment is unique in its ability to house equipment and provide patients with access to content. Simply put: a 600 bed facility has different hardware and content needs than a 20 bed facility. Our long-term goal is to ultimately assist hospitals in reaching their unique “saturation points” so that content is readily available to patients.
- Patient Engagement. We define patient engagement in terms of access to activity. What entertainment offerings existed (if any) to patients prior to Gamers Outreach programs, and how accessible were those activities to patients? Example: did patients need to wait X hours before they were able to play a video game, or were games available immediately?
- Improved Patient Outcomes. In our experience, hospitals place a high degree of importance on measuring “patient outcomes.” Loosely defined, this encompasses how quickly / fully a patient recovers during treatment. We believe games are capable of contributing towards improved patient outcomes, and intend to conduct research to determine whether a statistical correlation exists.
- Improved Patient Experience. For our purposes, we think of patient experience as the overall sentiment a person may have during hospitalization. It can also be an indicator of how a patient “feels” day-to-day. Patients often report their “pain scores” to attending healthcare staff, which help determine sense of comfort or injury tolerance. We believe games are capable of facilitating improved patient experiences, and intend to begin producing annual samples that assess the validity of this belief.
We’re so proud of the work that’s been accomplished thus far. We continue to be humbled by the generosity of the gaming community, and inspired by the courage of hospitalized children and their families. We promise to continue doing our part as gamers to work hand-in-hand with healthcare professionals in an effort to evolve the entertainment experience in hospitals.
Our deepest thanks go out to everyone who has been involved with Gamers Outreach through the years. Whether you tweeted, volunteered, or donated – this has all been made possible with your support.
We look forward to expanding in 2019, and hope you’ll continue to join us on our quest to help others level up!
Have a wonderful new year! We’ll see you in 2019!
*Note: at the time of this post, we’re updating our website back-end. The impact GIF illustrates our current scale, though not all hospitals are listed on our website impact map.