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Blog: Program News


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)
  • 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)

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!

Pineaqples Delivers GO Karts

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Pro H1Z1 player “Pineaqples” knows what it’s like to spend time in the hospital.

Through his Twitch channel, he led a fundraising effort with his community to place two GO Karts inside Children’s Hospital of Nevada.

Our friends from Twin Galaxies created this heartwarming video sharing his story, and documenting the delivery of his GO Karts. It’s always wonderful to see the gaming community rally together in support of hospitalized patients and their families.

We’ll let Pineaqples take it from here!

 

Dr. DisRespect & Family Visit Rady Children’s

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It’s not every day you have the chance to meet a six-foot-eight international gaming superstar (and two-time Blockbuster champion) with a 37 inch vertical leap. But then again, there’s only one individual in the Twitch universe who carries such esteemed credentials – and it’s none other than Dr. DisRespect.

Last summer, broadcasters from across the gaming community took part in a charity invitational hosted by the developers behind PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). The event, which brought together 128 Twitch streamers from Europe and North America, was a celebration of PUBG’s incredible success and the gamers who’ve supported its development.

One of those streamers was Dr. DisRespect, (Guy Beahm) whose community of viewers helped construct two GO Karts for Rady Children’s Hospital of San Diego.

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GO Karts (Gamers Outreach Karts) are portable video game kiosks built specifically for medical environments. Healthcare professionals are able to use GO Karts as a way to 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 treatment.

We estimate an average of 8 patients benefit from a single GO Kart per day. Collectively, the two units donated by Guy and his viewers could support as many as 5,840 children annually.

As fans ourselves, it was wonderful to welcome Guy and his family into the hospital environment. During our visit, we had the chance to share how these units will make a difference for patients, and hear from staff on how gaming plays a role in healthcare.

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We’d like to express our immense gratitude to the #ChampionsClub, who made the delivery of these units possible through contributions during last year’s invitational. And of course, it’s hard to find words that do justice to the the generosity of PUBG Corp, who have continued to be incredible advocates for our programs and children facing hospitalization.

Firm handshakes, everyone.

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Summit1g Delivers to Children’s Colorado

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During last year’s Gamers for Giving, Twitch streamer summit1g helped raise more than $50,000 in support of providing entertainment to hospitalized children. To date, it’s the most a single broadcaster has generated for our cause, and even more astonishing to know it was all accomplished in a single day of streaming!

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As many of our readers are aware, our preference is to give donors the opportunity to support hospitals in their own backyard. Coincidentally, it just so happens Children’s Hospital Colorado (local to summit1g) oversees one of the largest networks of pediatric facilities in the nation. A serendipitous match for a fleet of GO Karts.

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Our team was thrilled to exercise the resources generated by summit1g and his viewers. Thanks to the contributions from his community, we were able to construct 15 GO Karts for patients at Children’s Hospital Colorado. We estimate ~8 kids per day benefit from a single GO Kart. It’s possible this donation could impact as many as 44,000 patients annually!

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It was our honor to have summit1g join us for a special dedication at the hospital, where we had the chance to learn how video games make a difference in the lives of patients. The hospital was thrilled to accept this contribution, and intends to spread these GO Karts across multiple facilities where they’ll be of use to patients for years to come.

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The deployment of these units marks a new record for “most GO Karts delivered” at a single time, and given the size of Children’s Hospital Colorado – they have use for every one.

Our deepest thanks go out to summit1g and his community of viewers. His involvement with our cause has inspired our team. We’re so grateful to him and his supporters for making a positive impact in the lives of children facing hospitalization. These GO Karts will be of tremendous benefit to kids receiving treatment. We’re proud knowing the gaming community is capable of rallying together in such a powerful way. Thank you to everyone who donated or helped spread the word. GG WP!

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Founder of Charity-Gaming Talks Benefits of Video Games in Hospital

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Jim Weller (second from the right) is the Assistant Director of Patient Experience at Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH), and we recently had the chance to sit down and discuss the benefits of video games for children in hospitals.

Jim has worked in hospitals his entire life, and is the founder of Charity-Gaming – a nonprofit organization that help kids stricken with illness feel like normal kids by providing an escape through video games. Charity-Gaming provides handheld gaming systems to patients to make their hospital stay more comfortable. Bonus feature: the patients actually keep the systems!

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Our partnership started when Jim was looking for a video game cart to purchase for SIUH. His research led him to Gamers Outreach – and after a bit of fundraising, Jim managed to construct two GO Karts for patients at the hospital! Most recently, Jim’s organization placed three more GO Karts within nearby facilities in New York, bringing his total number of GO Karts constructed to 5 units.

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Another strong motivator for Jim was his own experience seeing his father treated at the hospital. Jim’s goal is to ensure every patient at every hospital has access to video games. There are many benefits to having video games accessible at the bedside, including building math skills and inspiring creativity with games like Minecraft. Video games are powerful developmental tools for kids to build critical thinking and, we believe as does Jim, that the full potential of this has not been tapped. With the help of video games, Jim notes an upswing in not only patient happiness, but hospital staff happiness as well as the parents of the patients.

We look forward to working together with Jim on our combined quest to provide access to video games to every child being treated at a hospital.

Four Ways To Build Your Own GO Kart

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With the new production process complete, it’s now cheaper and more accessible than ever to build a Gamers Outreach Kart (GO Kart)!

Not familiar? GO Karts are portable video game kiosks built specifically for the medical environment. Each unit is equipped with a gaming console, monitor, and assortment of games. GO Karts enable nurses to easily provide bedside activities to children in hospitals who are unable to leave their rooms for extended periods of time. Each kart offers a safe and efficient way to ensure kids have access to entertainment.

Once constructed, GO Karts make an impact that lasts for many years. Our first GO Kart was built in 2009 and still exists in C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital! We estimate a GO Kart is used (on average) by ~8 children per day, which means a single unit could benefit nearly 3,000 patients per year!

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The donor commitment for each GO Kart is $3,500 – which covers everything – the kart itself, gaming console, games, monitor, controllers, freight shipping (to any hospital in the mainland U.S.) setup, and a 2 year warranty!

Interested in building a GO Kart for your local hospital? Here are four ways you can get started:

Fundraising Platform
Looking for a way to collect donations from friends, coworkers, or fans on social media? Make use of the of the Gamers Outreach Fundraising platform! Each fundraising page can be uniquely tailored to your story. Customize your page by inserting your own fundraising video or stream (or use the default we provide). You can also add a description to your page, sharing why this cause is important to you, and asking friends for support. The goal for a GO Kart is set at $3,500, but you can also edit this amount to a custom goal (perhaps if you’d like to build multiple karts, or just generally fundraise). If you’re interested in building a GO Kart and raising funds on an on-going basis, our fundraising platform is the most streamlined way to get the job done! Once you’ve completed your GO Kart campaign, you’ll receive a congratulatory email, and one of our team members will get in touch to start the conversation about your new GO Kart donation!

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Organize a Community Event
Start your own gaming event, go door to door, throw a charity soccer tournament at school, the possibilities are endless! The old school methods are tried and true. You can’t go wrong putting in some good ol’ fashioned elbow grease, and the more accessible you make your event, the easier it will be to start the groundswell of support. Sporting tournaments are a great idea – especially if you’re in middle school or high school and have access to plenty of people and simple marketing. Pick the most popular sport at your school and downsize the roster requirement to allow more teams to participate. If you want to have a football tournament, make it a 5v5 flag football tournament; if you want to have a soccer or basketball tournament, make it 3v3; or any other sport! Or maybe your school has a gaming club (if not, you should be the one to get it started!) that would have interest in helping to organize a fundraiser. The big takeaway here is this: activities help bring people together and can be a great way to raise money. You just have to pick one and get started! Contact some local businesses for sponsorship and ask for gift cards or prizes for the winners. To reduce your stress as the tournament organizer, be sure to have people enter by donating on the Gamers Outreach Fundraising platform. You won’t have to worry about collecting money, and your supporters will be able to receive individual tax receipts!

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Summon Your Fellow Gamers
Through the power of streaming sites, like Twitch, you can broadcast your fundraiser to the masses! Hop on the sticks (or mouse and keyboard), and start streaming your favorite game in support of the cause. Take this to the next level by organizing a streaming marathon with your friends. We’ve had marathons last up to a full week, featuring multiple streamers in shifts, but you can play for as long or short as you’d like. Similar to organizing a community event, you can reach out to companies for donations so that your stream will be packed with giveaways and other fun activities for the viewers. Don’t forget to drop that link to your fundraising page in your panels and blast it out all over social media!

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Direct Contribution
Perhaps you’re in a position to directly contribute $3,500. Sponsoring a GO Kart build or purchasing a unit for a hospital is fairly straightforward. Simply email us at contact@gamersoutreach.org letting us know you’d like to acquire a unit. We can provide you with an invoice, or you can make a straight donation on our website. Just be sure to drop us an email so we can know where you’d like your GO Kart sent! We’ll follow up with all the usual questions, and even help organize a visit with the hospital if it’s of interest! We recognize all our donors atop each GO Kart – so sponsoring a unit could be a great charity project for your workplace!

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Got another idea for how to build GO Karts? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook! Thinking about getting started yourself? In the words of a famous sports company – JUST DO IT! But most importantly, GL HF. We can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish for kiddos in hospitals!

Patrick Peterson Dedicates GO Karts to Phoenix Children’s

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Known for his lock-down defensive style on the football field, Patrick Peterson is one of the NFL’s elite cornerbacks and a captain of the Arizona Cardinals.

But this week, he was working a different type of coverage.

Twenty minutes from the Arizona Cardinal’s home field, University of Phoenix Stadium, Patrick Peterson arrived at Phoenix Children’s Hospital last Monday with an assortment of holiday gifts for the kids. Among toys, dolls, and other presents, Patrick dedicated three GO Karts that will serve hospital patients for years to come.

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Our Founder, Zach Wigal, was present to personally dedicate the carts along with Patrick and the Patrick Peterson Foundation For Success. The addition of these new GO Karts emphasizes the clear wants and needs of the children receiving care from the hospital. Entertainment is an important component of improving the quality of life of patients, easing the recovery process. With Patrick’s kind donation, the total number of carts at Phoenix Children’s is up to seven, and smiles will be spreading faster than ever amongst the kiddos.

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We’d like to extend a massive “Thank You!” to P2 and his team for making this donation happen and personally delivering the GO Karts. The entire Gamers Outreach organization looks forward to a lasting relationship filled with more smiles and entertainment!

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Huntsville Children’s Receives GO Karts!

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The Gamers Outreach holiday season is in full swing and dedications from our recent batch of GO Karts continue! Last week we had the chance to visit Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children. Thanks to a generous contribution from our sponsor ADTRAN, two GO Karts were delivered to patients at the facility!

Local WHNT News 19 was on site to cover the event, and grabbed a few quotes from our founder as well as the child life specialists at the hospital:

Patients and staff alike were elated by the addition of the new GO Karts, and both units were put to use as soon as they arrived. With a fairly limited supply of toys and games at the hospital, it was apparent these two GO Karts are going to have an immense impact for patients and their families. Full coverage from the event can be found here.

ADTRAN, a sponsor of Gamers for Giving 2017, has been incredibly supportive of Gamers Outreach programs. With a large presence of employees in Huntsville, the ADTRAN staff chose to make their first GO Kart delivery to Huntsville Children’s in an effort to support their local community. The GO Karts were built thanks to the company’s employee donation program (Team ADTRAN), and we were excited to share the experience of a GO Kart delivery with members from their crew.

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This contribution marks our first foray into the state of Alabama, and we’re so proud ADTRAN helped make it possible! We hope it’s just the first of many more to come.

Our thanks go out to Team ADTRAN for their support of Gamers Outreach & Gamers for Giving, and of course, to the staff and patients of Huntsville Women & Children’s for accomodating our delivery! We hope you enjoy your GO Karts!

For the kids, by the kids: CHLA Receives 10 GO Karts

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Last week, we had the opportunity to celebrate Giving Tuesday with our friends at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles – and to say the least, it was a special day.

10 brand new GO Karts have been dedicated to serve patients at the hospital. Appropriately, these units were built thanks to the fundraising efforts of some of the youngest donors we’ve had the pleasure to work with – The Junior Ambassadors of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Los Angeles news network KABC-TV channel 7 came out to cover the story:

The Junior Ambassadors of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are kids and teens from the community who support the hospital’s life saving work. The program offers kids the opportunity to work together and become incredible hospital representatives and fundraisers. It’s a powerful and inspiring model of kids helping kids. Since 2012, Junior Ambassadors have given hope to the Los Angeles community by speaking at various events, sharing their stories and inspiring more than $1.6 million in donations to support the hospital’s patients and families.

Through months of fundraising efforts, the Junior Ambassadors were able to collectively generate more than $35,000 in contributions to build a whopping 10 GO Karts for patients! To date, their delivery ties Aaron Greenberg’s campaign for most carts delivered in a single dedication. This brings the total unit count within Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to 17 GO Karts, the most of any facility we support at the time of this writing. Staff at the hospital have told us they hope to eventually receive/acquire up to 50.

For our team, this delivery was a surreal full-circle moment. It was inspiring to meet children so young eager to make a difference through their shared passion for gaming. The enthusiasm of the young ambassadors goes to show charitable giving can start at any age and through any circumstance. Brooks Vogt, age 7, was excited to give back. He’s beat cancer twice, and told us he enjoyed playing Minecraft on our existing GO Karts during his treatment.

These GO Karts represent the very first units we’ve dedicated to a hospital of our October construction batch. We couldn’t be prouder to have worked with the Junior Ambassadors of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to see this initial group of GO Karts deployed.

For the kids, by the kids! Hats off to the Junior Ambassadors for making the first delivery of our newest GO Karts a reality for patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles!

Many more to come.