Gaming for a Cause
Imagine running a marathon, except in this marathon not everyone is running and you don’t have to either. You can walk, jump, crouch, crawl, swim, climb, kick, or punch your way through. In this course, you can race against others and vie for first place, or you can run by yourself and explore mountains, forests and maybe even rescue a princess or two.
Extra Life is not your average marathon. Participants do not have to train months in advance for physical endurance and there’s no official starting or ending point. This marathon is doable and accessible for those of all ages and abilities.
Extra Life is a 24-hour video gaming marathon that hosts an annual event each fall to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since the marathon’s inception in 2008, gamers from all over the world have come together to give back to their communities and show their support by doing what they truly love to do: gaming.
Inspired by the passing of a young girl named Victoria “Tori” Enmon, Extra Life began as a simple in-house fundraiser for Texas Children’s. In 2008, Jeromy Adams, managing director and founder of Extra Life, had the idea to reach out to his friends in the online gaming community to spread the word about the needs of children’s hospitals. Adams received an overwhelming amount of support.
“I had been working at Texas Children’s for a while now in helping get the radio-thon up and running, so I took it very personally when Tori passed away,” said Adams. “So I worked with some friends of mine in gaming. I loved video gaming and we got something off the ground for Texas Children’s. It raised $120,000 in its first year in 2008. That’s when we realized that there was something here that we could use to grow Tori’s legacy and to help other kids.”
After two years, Adams decided to expand Extra Life’s reach by joining forces with the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital group. He was happy to see firsthand how the money being raised went directly to hospitals across the country.
“I decided that I was going to donate the intellectual property of Extra Life to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in agreement with the CEO to help us grow it, and they did,” said Adams. “Now my all day, every day job is to help Extra Life gamers help more kids on a local basis. Extra Life has grown from a $120,000 fundraiser for Texas Children’s Hospital to becoming a fundraiser that may raise $6 million this year for 170 children’s hospitals in the United States and Canada.”
Now that Adams’ responsibilities have greatly increased, volunteers in the Houston area have come together to help raise local awareness about Extra Life and maintain strong support for Texas Children’s. As part of the Extra Life Guild Program, volunteers work year-round by sharing the story of Extra Life, recruiting new gamers, visiting comic book stores and conventions, as well as planning fun events, such as the annual marathon day.
“We all seem to have a story about how a children’s hospital has affected us. Whether that’s our kids, a sibling, a nephew or a niece, you’re very hard-pressed to find an Extra Lifer who doesn’t have a story about why they are doing this and they usually have a very personal one.” — Jeromy Adams, managing director of Extra Life
“It’s one of the greatest charities I have been a part of,” said Extra Life Houston Guild Secretary and member Gerardo Pineda. “There truly is a positive energy amongst the gamers. Being involved has allowed me to connect with fellow gamers who are also passionate about helping others. It is a good feeling knowing that there are others like you who care about video games, comics, pop culture and also about helping children.”
“I think a big highlight for us this year has been the rampant success of the guild program in terms of helping us recruit people to join Extra Life,” said Adams. “Recruiting is very essential to us. As a program, we don’t ask for money or donations. We ask people to donate their time and their connections. We let them do the asking. So it works a lot like a run, walk or bike ride fundraiser that we are all really familiar with either participating in or sponsoring someone else in. Except there’s not the caloric output of having to go run, walk or bike. You do what you like to do. You use your passion and you do it to help kids.”
Additionally, Adams noted Extra Life does not require its participants to commit to playing just video games. Participants can also play tabletop games, board games, card games or whatever other game they choose. They can even have their marathon on alternate days or split it up into two. The point, he says, is to find something you love to do and use that passion to help others.
“Extra Life is an open-source platform,” said Adams. “I’ve never actually heard a good excuse of why somebody couldn’t participate. Yes, we do have a game day every fall, but Extra life is designed in such a way that if that day doesn’t work, you can do it on a day that does work. If you don’t like video games, you can do anything you want.”
As a reflection of how hard the Houston Extra Life Guild worked this year, Texas Children’s raised more than $83,000 and had four times as many participants as the previous year’s event. Nationwide the event has raised more than $5,000,000, so President of the Houston Extra Life Guild, Dixie Dismukes said she was glad to see how many gamers came together for the cause, especially those who may not be video gaming fanatics.
“We all volunteer our free time to spread the word about Extra Life and get more people involved,” said Dismukes. “As a volunteer, you get to meet new people with varied interests and backgrounds who all have a common goal—to raise money for kids in the hospital. It’s neat to meet people whose path you may not have crossed otherwise and work together for something so great.”
Despite the fact that this year’s big event has passed, Adams and the Extra Life Crew will still be fundraising and encouraging gamers to join the cause. Donations are accepted year round. Adams says he feels proud of how far Extra Life has come.
“I want to continue growing my friend’s legacy,” said Adams. “Tori was a fighter and a positive person. She had a profound impact on my life and now she is having a profound impact on tens of thousands of people all over the country.
“I think as a person, I am more aware of how many great people there are in this world,” he added. “I’ve gotten the chance to meet families who participate in Extra Life ferociously who I would have never met before and have these amazing stories. I’ve learned that children’s hospitals are only a couple of points of separation away from any of us. We all seem to have a story about how a children’s hospital has affected us. Whether that’s our kids, a sibling, a nephew or a niece, you’re very hard-pressed to find an Extra Lifer who doesn’t have a story about why they are doing this, and they usually have
a very personal one.”