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Gamers for Giving is THIS WEEKEND!

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Can you believe it??? Our 11th annual Gamers for Giving fundraiser is happening THIS WEEKEND!

On March 23rd & 24th, we’ll be taking over the EMU Convocation Center to chase down a $500,000 fundraising goal in support of providing entertainment to hospitalized children!

If we can reach the target, these funds could enable us to support as many as 365,000 more kids EACH YEAR!

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Here’s how you can help this weekend:

  • Fundraise: This year, we’ve partnered with Tiltify.com, a fundraising platform which allows gamers to stream in support of Gamers Outreach programs! You can start a general fundraiser, or even rally your community to construct GO Karts for a hospital of your preference. Not a streamer? No sweat! You can still use the platform to reach out to friends, family, or colleagues. Launch or support a Gamers for Giving campaign here.
  • Donate: Any amount helps! Donations can be made on our Tiltify portal here!
  • Watch: Head over to our Twitch channel to catch tournament action from our HCS Grassroots event and updates from the show floor! We’ll be live both Saturday and Sunday from 12 PM – 8 PM eastern! We also have a whole bunch of wonderful content creators fundraising in support of the cause!
  • Spread the word: Help share Gamers for Giving hype on social media! Sharing our cause with friends or plugging the stream broadcast can go a long way in building support! Be sure to use our event hashtag #GFG2019!

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If you’re attending the event in-person, we’ll have an assortment of raffle prizes and Gamers Outreach swag available for donors. Attendees may purchase raffle tickets for $5 each, or 5 tickets for $20.

And finally, Gamers for Giving wouldn’t be possible without the support of our incredible sponsors. Please be sure to give them some appreciation for helping us produce this year’s fundraiser!

We’ll see you on March 23rd & 24th at the EMU Convocation Center!

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Gamers Outreach on CNN

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Exciting news, Gamers Outreach community! Our founder Zach Wigal has been named a 2019 CNN Hero!

CNN Heroes celebrates “everyday people changing the world,” each of whom shows how one person can truly make a difference.

Wigal, who founded Gamers Outreach in 2007, is representing our cause as part of this year’s list of nonprofit change agents.

As a team, we’re proud to share this honor with our volunteers and donors who make a difference for kids in hospitals every day! We hope this recognition is of benefit to the families we work to support in healthcare facilities nationwide.

You can check out the full article / videos on CNN’s website here.

As of this blog post, our annual Gamers for Giving fundraiser in is two weeks (great timing)! We hope you’ll join us at the EMU Convocation Center on March 23rd & 24th to celebrate this victory, and help make an even bigger difference for hospitalized children!

Dev Team Expansion: Welcome Jeff Royle

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In late 2016, we announced the creation of “The Dev Team” (Dev Team). Analogous to an advisory board, our Dev Team will comprise game industry veterans, medical professionals, and corporate leaders dedicated to advancing Gamers Outreach programs through fundraising, advocacy, and guidance.

The Dev Team exists to support directors and staff within Gamers Outreach. They help lead development efforts which grow the impact of Gamers Outreach activities. Their involvement provides our team with a valuable third-party perspective on internal discussions, and their passion for our cause helps rally community action.

This year, we’re hoping to welcome between 3 – 5 new members to our Dev Team to join existing member, Scott “SirScoots” Smith. It’s our intent to cultivate an advisory board comprised of professionals from a wide range of disciplines (both within and outside the gaming industry).

We’ve outlined a few key qualities to guide our consideration of candidates. Dev Team members must be/have…

  • Senior-level professionals with experience working in gaming, medical, or corporate environments.
  • Record of securing grants, sponsorship, or external resources for programs, corporate initiatives, or services.
  • Demonstrated excellence in forming relationships that advanced a particular program, company, or cause.
  • Exemplary leadership skills. Dev Team members must be able to foster a team environment and work collaboratively when necessary.
  • Dev Team members are effective communicators, able to identify areas for improvement, and help advance the organization’s mission.

With that said, today we’re excited to welcome our newest Dev Team member, Jeff Royle.

Jeff is a game industry veteran with over 21 years of experience in business development and game developer relations. Throughout his career, he’s held positions with AMD, Razer, and most recently – NZXT & Lightstream (two sponsors of Gamers Outreach). Jeff has driven product and software partnerships with the likes of Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, Epic, Bethesda, Valve, Rockstar, 2K, Wargaming, SquareEnix, and Razer – to name a few.

“When I first learned about Gamers Outreach, and then later had the opportunity to visit one of the hospitals that had received GO Karts, I saw firsthand how much impact these devices have for children staying in care facilities,” said Jeff. “Not only do games provide entertainment and a way to connect with friends and family, but more importantly, they help patients heal and not feel isolated in what can be a scary and overwhelming experience. I’ve been fortunate to be part of the video game industry for over 20 years. I’ve seen many smiling faces from players who get to enjoy the games we help create. Getting involved with Gamers Outreach was an easy choice for me. I want to help bring smiles to the faces of those who may need it most.”

“We’re thrilled to formally welcome Jeff to Gamers Outreach,” said Zach Wigal, founder of Gamers Outreach. “His experience in the industry brings a deep level of insight which will surely be valuable as we continue to bring entertainment to hospitalized patients.”

We’re so glad Jeff is part of the team and look forward to having his guidance as we continue to help others level up! Welcome, Jeff!

Leveling Up Metro Detroit

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Exciting news to share, Gamers Outreach supporters! Hospitals throughout our home state are getting a video game upgrade thanks to sponsorship from Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers!

During the month of February, we’ll be rolling out 17 GO Karts to healthcare facilities in southeast Michigan! If an average of 6 – 8 children benefit from each unit per day, it’s possible this fleet of GO Karts could impact as many as 40,000 kids per year!!

As of this blog post, the first 8 units have already been delivered to hospitals throughout the Beaumont Health Network. We had the opportunity to celebrate alongside staff and children at the Royal Oak location just last week.

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At the celebration, we listened to doctors and staff discuss the importance of recreation during a patient’s stay at the hospital. Video games are an incredible tool for healthcare professionals. As we’ve seen firsthand, they’re a source of entertainment, socialization, and distraction. These 17 GO Karts will be of immense benefit for children throughout southeast Michigan for years to come.

Of course, we had to take the GO Karts for a test run. It was a blast playing games with patients and child life specialists throughout the day.

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We’re so grateful to the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers for helping us expand Gamers Outreach programs throughout the state of Michigan. The full press release with details on this incredible sponsorship can be found below.

Thank you Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers!!

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Saline Mich., January 28, 2019 – Gamers Outreach — a nonprofit organization that provides video game equipment, technology and software to help kids cope during hospital stays — and the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Association (MDCDA) have joined forces to provide recreation and healing therapy to pediatric patients using the power of video games. Through a unique sponsorship from the MDCDA, a total of 17 GO Karts (Gamers Outreach Karts) will be delivered to children’s hospitals throughout the Metro Detroit area during the month of February. The first drop off occurs at the Children’s Miracle Network Garden of Beaumont Royal Oak with a special ribbon-cutting on Wednesday, January 30th at 1:00pm.

GO Karts are portable video game kiosks built specifically for the hospital environment. Each unit is equipped with a video game console, monitor, controllers and an assortment of games. The kiosks assist hospital staff in providing patients with access to entertainment and are especially beneficial for children who are unable to leave their rooms during extended treatment. It’s estimated that between six to eight children benefit from a single unit each day.

According to Zach Wigal, Founder of Gamers Outreach, the delivery of 17 GO Karts from the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Association represents one of the largest to date and could collectively impact more than 40,000 kids and their families annually.

“We’re so grateful to work with the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers in support of hospitalized patients and healthcare facilities throughout southeastern Michigan,” Wigal said. “Our organization is focused on improving a patient’s quality of life during treatment, and we believe having access to entertainment and recreation aids the recovery process. This generous sponsorship will allow Gamers Outreach to provide GO Karts to hospitals throughout the Metro Detroit region, bringing joy to thousands of patients for years to come!”

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“Video gaming takes on a new purpose when it helps children cope with extended hospital visits and treatments,” said John Fox, President of MDCDA. “The Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Association is thrilled to provide ongoing support through our sponsorship of Gamers Outreach and its mission. As we continue our work to put a GO Kart gaming unit in as many hospitals throughout Metro Detroit as we can, we know kids will appreciate that they can forget about their clinical surroundings for a bit and focus on the fun.”

Gamers Outreach exists to address the special need for age-appropriate entertainment within children’s hospitals. Founded in Saline, Michigan, the organization supports nearly 200 hospitals across the United States.

About Gamers Outreach

 Gamers Outreach is a 501(c)(3) charity organization that provides recreation to children in hospitals through the power of video games and the gaming community. Hospitalization can often be a lonely, isolating, and scary experience for young people. Gamers Outreach eases those burdens through equipment, technology, and software that help kids cope with long-term treatment. More information can be found at www.GamersOutreach.org. 

About Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers (MDCD)

The Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Local Marketing Association (LMA) is comprised of 38 Chevrolet dealerships in Southeastern Michigan. It is the MDCD mission to take an active role in local communities and to support the Metro Detroit area by featuring local events, venues, bands, charities and people in its marketing and community outreach campaigns. For a complete listing of the 38 Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers and other information please visit chevydetroit.com.

Gamers for Giving 2019 Registration Has Opened!

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Gamers rejoice across the land! Registration to participate in Gamers for Giving 2019 has opened!

All tickets are sold through our friends at the Intel LANFest series and can be purchased here.

Gamers for Giving 2019 will take place on March 23rd & 24th at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center.

This year, we’re hoping to raise $500,000 in support of providing entertainment to hospitalized children across the country. We’ve been able to make incredible progress these last few years, which has largely been made possible thanks to Gamers for Giving!

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As always, news related to this year’s festivities will be available on the Gamers for Giving website. Be sure to check back frequently as we’ll be releasing updates weekly. For a listing of available tickets, see here.

You can help spread Gamers for Giving hype by using the hashtag #GFG2019 on Twitter or Instagram. And even if you can’t make the event – you can still organize a fundraiser in support of the cause!

We hope to see you on March 23rd & 24th at the EMU Convocation Center!

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Annual Summary: 2017 – 2018

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Scott “SirScoots” Smith & Zach Wigal of Gamers Outreach

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.

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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 identify, 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.

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Our Programs

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.)

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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.

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Current Impact

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!!

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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.

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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*:

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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Finances

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).

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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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.

Thank You!

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.

Save the date! Gamers for Giving 2019

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*Blows dust from cartridge* >>> *Inserts Gamers for Giving 2019*

Greetings everyone! Welcome to the beginning of a new decade.

We’re excited to share our 11th annual Gamers for Giving fundraiser will take place on the weekend of March 23rd & 24th, 2019!

For those not familiar: Gamers for Giving is a LAN party + streaming marathon that generates resources for Gamers Outreach programs. Through ticket sales, sponsorship, and online donations, last year’s event raised more than $772,000 in support of providing entertainment devices to children’s hospitals (that’s a whole bunch of GO Karts)!

Gamers for Giving will once again take place within the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center, a venue which hosts a wide array of events including concerts, trade-shows, and banquets. Tickets will go on sale in the month of January (date TBA).

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We’ll release more information regarding the 2019 event over the coming months – including our fundraising goals, streaming schedule, and list of activities. As usual, you can expect a full weekend of competitive tournaments and casual LAN camaraderie.

You can stay in sync with the latest news related to Gamers for Giving 2019 by following the Gamers for Giving blog, or following Gamers Outreach on Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to use the official hashtag #GFG2019 on Twitter!

2019 marks the beginning of a new era for Gamers Outreach. Thanks to funds raised at Gamers for Giving events and year-round support from the community, programs like Player 2 and Project GO Kart will soon benefit nearly 800,000 hospitalized children annually! Wowza!

We can’t wait to share our progress and celebrate with you. We’re looking forward to another incredible year of competition and streams at Gamers for Giving! Hope to see you at the EMU Convocation Center on March 23rd & 24th, 2019!

Esports Business Summit

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Exciting news to share, friends! Gamers Outreach has been named the official charity partner of the 2018 Esports Business Summit!

The Esports Business Summit brings together all sectors of the esports ecosystem for three days of networking, education and inspiration. The conference is powered by leading media brands covering marketing, sports, television, and entertainment.

During the conference, we’ll demonstrate how esports events, competitors, and fans can leverage their collective influence in support of charitable causes – like providing entertainment to hospitalized children!

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In addition to having a small exhibit on the conference floor, we’re teaming up with Esports Arena Las Vegas to host a special charity showcase on the evening of October 1st (7 PM – 9 PM pacific time).

We’ll be working with a handful of wonderful competitive gamers and content creators to raise funds in support of Gamers Outreach programs. Esports personalities joining us include Doug “Censor” Martin, Sheila “PterodactylsFTW” Weidman, Jordan “HusKers” Thomas, and Lauren “GlitterXplosion” Laracuente!

Want to join in? Here’s how!

  • If you’re unable to attend the event in-person, don’t sweat! Esports Arena will be producing a live stream of the showcase, and you can watch + donate from home on the event fundraising page!
  • For those who live nearby or are willing to travel: the event is open to the public! Doors will open at 6 pm.

We’ll also be giving away a bunch of incredible prizes to online supporters thanks to sponsorship from HyperX.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter as we roll out content for the show! We hope to see you online or at the arena on October 1st from 7 PM – 9 PM pacific!

Interview with Fwiz: Life’s Boss Battles

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Over the last decade, we’ve had the honor to provide hospitalized children with sources of relief and entertainment through technology and the medium of video games.

In the course of our work, we’ve discovered games are a form of recreation that often empower patients to re-engage in play when they otherwise have limited mobility, or are unable to access activities away from their bedside. In certain instances, they’re even a tool used in therapy.

Some of our team members can speak to the value of games in hospitals from firsthand experience.

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Back in 2014, Ryan “Fwiz” Wyatt joined the board of Gamers Outreach. While Ryan is known to the video game community for his work in esports and on the YouTube gaming team, his career trajectory could’ve easily been derailed by circumstances surrounding his health.

As a child, Ryan was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease – a type of inflammatory auto immune disease which affects a patient’s digestive tract. There is no cure for the disease, and patients who experience severe symptoms sometimes undergo multiple surgeries to lessen its complications. Ryan was one such patient.

In this interview, Ryan shares his perspective as a “frequent flyer” in the hospital, the role games have had on his career, how games made a difference during his stay, and why he’s made giving back a personal obligation.

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Thanks for making time to share your story, Ryan. For those who aren’t familiar, mind giving us an introduction? Who are you and what do you do?

Sure thing. My name is Ryan Wyatt and I run the global business for gaming and VR/AR at YouTube. My day-to-day job consists of working with game publishers, creators, and partners to find success and execute on bringing incredible content to YouTube.

That’s quite the day job! Let’s go back to your roots. Where did you grow up?

I was born and grew up in the Midwest, around the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. I was a big fan of Cleveland sports growing up. I went to college at The Ohio State University, and moved to Los Angeles about 8 years ago for my work in the video game industry.

What are your earliest memories of video games? When did you first become a gamer? When did you know you wanted a career in the video game industry?

I started gaming at the age of 3 after my mom bought an NES for my two siblings and I. My earliest memories of gaming were of my brother, sister, and I surrounding a giant tube TV, playing Mario Brothers 3. I fell in love with gaming. It was a more immersive experience as opposed to watching television. I’m now 31 years old and at no point in my life have I stopped playing video games.

I never thought about the legitimacy of working in the video game industry until my final years of college when I met Hector Rodriguez through the Major League Gaming (MLG) Call of Duty scene and started to learn about the world of esports.

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I found out there was opportunity to volunteer for the website and administer matches. I spent 10 to 20 hours a week overseeing tournaments for free while I was in college. I progressed as a volunteer and eventually got promoted to a paid role as head of online tournaments. The stakes were a bit higher because people were paying money to enter those tournaments. I remember looking at a game called Halo and realizing how big that game was for competitive players. There were full-time professional gamers competing in those tournaments, but Call of Duty wasn’t getting the same support. That seemed odd to me because Call of Duty was a bigger game from a sales perspective. Me and another player named Hastr0 decided to commentate these tournaments. We felt we could bring more attention to these events if they were streamed.

MLG was supportive, despite our broadcasts being incredibly humble. I would commentate from my bedroom dressed in nice clothes with a red drape behind me so people didn’t know where I was. It was “low budget” for sure, but I wanted to make something out of it.

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Hector really introduced me to the world of YouTube, and how people could make careers out of creating content and uploading it to the site. That’s when I started to realize if I stuck with gaming, I might be able to make it into a career.

That passion is something all of us gamers can relate to. It seems many who work in the industry have their own version of your “I made a way” story. You were at the front lines of the growth we’re seeing in esports now!

Let’s switch gears and talk about another experience you had as a child. Tell us about your time in the hospital. We know you were diagnosed with Crohn’s disease – but for our readers, can you explain what that is and how it impacted you?

In simple terms, Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease and impacts the lining of your digestive tract. It’s categorized as an auto immune disease because your own body attacks itself. For me, Crohn’s affected my small intestine.  It can cause a lot of symptoms, but the key characteristic is that it brings on inflammation – which causes issues with stomach pains, and can make you sensitive to a variety of foods. There are thousands of people affected, and unfortunately there’s still not a good understanding of how it develops. A lot of the symptoms that occur are mainly abdominal pains.

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How did learning you have Crohn’s affect you as a child?

I was diagnosed at 10 and had my first surgery at 14. It was a weird thing to get diagnosed with. It’s not well explained or articulated, and I had it bad. I was really underweight. I didn’t eat much. I was in pain all the time. I didn’t have nearly the energy other 10 year olds had. It was scary going to school, having to go to the bathroom, and not being able to participate in other activities kids could. During my very first surgery, they removed 12 inches of my small intestine.

After the surgery, I looked at my circumstances as a chance to not be sad for myself. This was my challenge. I think having Crohn’s has made me a better person. On the outside, any of us could look like we don’t have anything wrong. It reminds me of that quote, “everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Dealing with Crohn’s really made me take that to heart.

What does the treatment process for Crohn’s look like? How long were you in / out of the hospital?

I was in the hospital for 4.5 weeks during my first surgery, and it was miserable. It was a whole ordeal, and I had to make a lot of trips back to the hospital post-surgery for medications. I still have a 6 inch scar on my stomach from the procedure.

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During your time at the hospital, what role did video games have in your recovery?

I was treated at Cleveland Clinic, and during that time, they had a super Nintendo cart they’d push around to each room.  Kids would play for 30 minutes each. The cart had NBA jam, which was my favorite game. I remember thinking it was so cool – I would plan my whole day around waiting to get that cart. Aside from that, myself and the other kids had nothing. I was bored out of my mind. We didn’t have laptops or phones, and it felt so amazing to just get 30 minutes every day with that Nintendo cart. It really made an impact, and I can remember to this day my doctor playing games with me every time he came in. I always really appreciated it.

Why do you feel it’s important for you to be involved with Gamers Outreach, or charity in general? What does being involved in a cause like Gamers Outreach mean to you?

I believe life is largely based on “paying it forward.” I feel an incredible sense of duty and obligation to try and help others. As a child, there were people who took care of me and went out of their way to ensure I was OK. I think when we become older and self-capable, it becomes our turn to play that role.

Getting involved with Gamers Outreach was a no brainer for me. As soon as I heard there was a company that was building gaming carts to put in pediatric hospitals – something that had been profoundly impactful in my own life – I wanted to get involved. Gamers Outreach felt like the cause for me. It’s been a very natural fit for me to be readily available to help.

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For any young gamers who may be facing similar circumstances: do you have any words of wisdom to share that may be of guidance during treatment?

There are a lot of challenges life throws our way, some more visible than others. Do everything you can to learn from those trials, and figure out ways you can help others or channel what may seem negative into something positive.

When I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s, I thought of it negatively. I was being treated differently than others, I couldn’t participate in activities the same way, and life seemed unfair. But I came to realize my experience with Crohn’s made me appreciate life more. As a kid it’s hard to have that foresight – but if you believe everything happens for a reason, you can channel your struggles into positive actions. If I had the opportunity to change the past, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. It’s been a blessing in my life, and I think it’s allowed for great things to happen. I’d be a different person had I not had the opportunity to learn from my challenges.

Powerful words. Thanks for making time, Ryan! We appreciate it!

Seeking Volunteers: Player 2

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Ever wanted to get involved with Gamers Outreach programs and help make life better for kids going through hospitalization? Now’s your chance!

We’re rallying our fellow gamers to join us as “Player 2” volunteers in a select number of hospitals around the country, including…

  • C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
  • Children’s Hospital of Michigan (Detroit, Michigan)
  • Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California)
  • Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital (Chicago, Illinois)
  • St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • Texas Children’s (Houston, TX)
  • Doernbecher Children’s (Portland, OR)
  • Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children (Huntsville, Alabama)
  • Blank Children’s Hospital (Des Moines, IA)
  • Seattle Children’s (Seattle, WA)

Since announcing the initiative in 2015, we’ve been slowly rolling out the program to a handful of hospitals – collecting feedback from volunteers, patients, and healthcare staff along the way.

Not familiar with the program? No sweat! We’ve not yet created a dedicated page on our website aside from blog posts, so here’s a quick summary:

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Player 2 is an initiative that pairs video game enthusiasts with volunteer positions at hospitals. As part of the program, gamers have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they’ve acquired through gaming in a manner that supports patients and staff within healthcare facilities.

Responsibilities may include…

  • Distributing games to patients throughout a hospital.
  • Providing minor tech support for issues that arise with equipment (game updates, connectivity troubleshooting, installing software, etc.)
  • Playing games with kids!

As a volunteer, you’ll be required to commit ~3 hours per week to visiting with patients over the course of 4 – 6 months. All volunteers will ultimately need to pass the hospital’s qualification process, which requires an in-person interview, background check, immunization shots, and general training to interact with patients. Weekday availability is also a plus.

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While we’re specifically looking for individuals with extensive gaming knowledge, it’s important to note that responsibilities may also be non-gaming related during your time as a volunteer (e.g. cleaning toys or gaming materials, assisting kids in playrooms, helping children with arts & crafts). Day-to-day tasks vary depending on the needs of patients.

Still with us? Great! Here’s what you need to do to get involved:

  • Step 1: Fill out our volunteer application. While applications can be submitted at any time, some of the hospitals we work with have specific seasonal volunteer windows. The sooner you apply, the sooner we’ll be able to get you connected with a hospital!
  • Step 2: After submitting an application, you’ll receive an automated response confirming we’ve received your form. A representative from Gamers Outreach will reach out within 5 – 10 business days to inform you of opportunities in your area. In the event we receive too many applications, or your application doesn’t fit within a hospital’s current needs, we’ll invite you to apply again at a future time and keep you informed of other opportunities.
  • Step 3: Hospitals generally host volunteer information sessions to provide you with an idea of what life is like in the hospital. Attending this session is mandatory for all applicants, but does not equate to a hard volunteer commitment. Should a Player 2 opportunity be available, a team member from Gamers Outreach will provide you with information on attending one of these learning sessions.
  • Step 4: After you’ve learned about life in the hospital, a representative from Gamers Outreach will follow-up to confirm whether or not becoming a Player 2 Volunteer is still of interest, and discuss next steps for onboarding!

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For any gamer who wants to give back, Player 2 is a great way to make a difference. Player 2 volunteers help normalize the hospital experience by ensuring kids have access to equipment and socialization during treatment. Player 2 volunteers become a resource for parents, patients, and hospital staff who need help from gamers to ensure kids have access to recreation and activities! It’s a great opportunity for us gamers to apply our skills, and help others level up!

We hope you’ll consider joining us at the hospital!