1-Up for Life: Video Gaming Charities

first game

I can’t make it in and out of the grocery store or even the office break room without someone shoving a donation bucket or stale candy in my face, loudly urging me to fund the latest charity and, unfortunately more often than not, scam.  I honestly can’t even keep up with the different colored support ribbons nowadays.  Bumper stickers, t-shirts, fun runs – it can become completely overwhelming and make you feel stretched thin trying to devote money, time and energy to so many varying causes.  Even when I do have the occasional pocket full of bills, I’m reluctant to hand over my hard earned cash to a “fifth-grader” with a moustache, in support of a “cause” I’ve never heard of.

Gamers are some of the most charitable people I’ve come across, especially when it comes to sharing their passions with the less fortunate.  Allow me then to educate you good readers on a few legitimate causes close to any gamer’s heart – helping sick kids discover the joy of video games.


extra life

Extra-Life, founded by independent video gaming blog Sarcastic Gamer, has exploded since its creation in 2008.  In the past five years, nearly 2 million has been raised in support of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, with teams on track to double that record this year. By networking video-game marathons across the globe, Extra-Life allows teams and individuals to raise funds in support of the hospital of their choice.  In layman’s terms, get people to sponsor you to play video games for 25 hours.  No lacing up your marathon trainers, no selling calendars or candles or wrapping paper – just you, your favorite games and a stockpile of gamer fuel (I find Code Red to be especially helpful).  Oh yeah, and there’s some pretty sweet participation rewards, too – free digital game copies, PlayStation rewards, and team incentives.


“Who wants mimosas?”

Aside from the mimosas making this the best garage sale EVAR, it was just one of many creative ways Marcia Webb, co-founder of The Mommy Gamers and captain of local Extra-Life Team Jax, developed to support her team’s fundraising efforts.  Webb has campaigned relentlessly in support of her team’s goal and members, propelling them well past last year’s city record of $2,000.  Team Jax has currently raised over $5,500 for Extra-Life, putting them in the top 25 nationwide, and leading the area in its $10,000 raised so far.

garage 2

And really, what garage sale has such awesome offerings?

“Here,” said one browser, handing Webb a few dollars. “I don’t see anything, but I’d like to donate.”  Several times I had to move over to make way for customers picking through the tables of secondhand stuff, or perusing over team member Joanna Michalski’s Origami Owl jewelry.

Every team needs captains like Marcia.  In addition to garage sales, she’s created fun ways to get people to donate, including dying her hair crazy colors, movie passes, some sweet swag from Plants vs. Zombies, and reenacting Miley Cyrus’ wrecking ball song (with clothing).  She’s always on the go, from the local colleges to Nerdular’s nightclub Pixelated music events, the most recent of which was attended by cosplayers galore.


Eric Takeyama

At my own alma mater, UNF, Webb was thrilled to be able to reach out to students who wanted to participate, like one young man in a wheelchair who rolled past her booth several times.

“He couldn’t participate in the dance marathon at the booth next to us,” she explained. “But when I told him about Extra-Life and the gaming marathons, his eyes just lit up. ‘I can do that!’ he said.”

Team Jax’s marathon gaming session will take place at Underground Alley, a gaming joint mostly catering to and providing a safe environment for the teen gaming crowd.  Think Chuck-E-Cheese/Dave and Busters crossover without the booze or the screaming tots in saggy diapers, or giant moldy rat costumes.

This year’s event is THIS WEEKEND!  November 2nd, and you’ll be able to follow along through various team sites and facebook pages.  Since I’ll be travelling out of the country during the marathon, I regrettably cannot participate – but you bet your bippy (whatever that is) that I’ll be involved next year.  Twenty-five straight hours of WoW.  I may go blind, but it’s for a great cause.

Childs Play

childs play

Child’s Play, founded by the authors of gaming’s favorite webcomic Penny Arcade, raised over 5 million dollars for charity in 2012.  Now in its tenth year, the organization has donated over 12 million dollars in video games, books and toys to children’s hospitals internationally.  The foundation hosts golf tournaments, charity dinners, auctions and gaming marathons year round to raise funds for new consoles and games, in addition to setting up hospital “wish lists” for kids to request specific games and toys.

gaam 3

No affiliation with what promises to be a truly terrible film.

Child’s Play is the featured charity for GAAM again this year, making two epic themed events in a six-month time span.  Teenage Mutant Ninja GAAM promises to be this winter’s best local event, featuring artwork from Saints Row creator DS Volition, libations from local brewery AARDWOLF, returning music entertainment On Guard and DJ NES, and indie gaming companies hosting tournaments and prototype gaming sessions.


GAAM hosted a preview event during Filipino Pride Day downtown, using a recently closed Starbucks as its base of operation.  The Legend of GAAM’s Ganon made a repeat appearance, as did previous show artwork and game set-ups courtesy of Storm Unity.  Prior commitments regrettably kept us from staying long, so we missed out on the eventual break-dancing competitions, but we’re hoping for a repeat performance in December.

Here’s a few others worth mentioning:

Get-Well Gamers

get well

Photo: thetalesend, courtesy fandomania.com

Get Well Gamers is all about free-cycling and keeping kids entertained with those games you’ve beaten but GameStop is only offering you a seventy-cent trade-in value.  Founded in 2001 by frequently hospitalized (as a child) entrepreneur Ryan Sharpe, their network extends throughout the United States and Canada, and as a 501(c)(3) public charity, your games, systems, even monetary donations are tax-deductible.  The organization has received donations from Ubisoft, Pixar, EA, PlayStation, XBox and Activision.  They aim to be the “Red Cross of gamers,” expanding beyond their North American borders and reaching out globally.

The AbleGamers


Photo: The Able Gamers

Able Gamers supports gamers with disabilities, combining caregivers, game developers and disabled gamers in an effort to expand their social networking and entertainment options. Their events feature “accessibility arcades” and online events for home-bound gamers.  The charity “aims to improve the overall quality of life for those with disabilities through the power of video games,” and so far has done a fantastic job.  They’ve participated in PAX panels and received international recognition, including an AAPD Leadership Award, and work with Evil Controllers to modify consoles and controllers to be accessible to those with physical challenges.

Operation Supply Drop


Photo: BlondeNerd.com

Want to support the troops instead?  There’s a charity for that.  Operation Supply Drop, founded by retired Army Captain Stephen Machuga, provides games and consoles to overseas military.  Through Veterans Day, OSD is raising funds as part of its 8-Bit Salute to Veterans, shipping out gaming-based care packages both to troops stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq and other foreign bases, as well as wounded home front soldiers.

Know of any other awesome gaming charities?  Let us all know!

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