Child’s Play – Curing Hospital Boredom with Video Games
After posting An Open Letter to My Family – I’m Giving Up My Birthday, my loved ones responded by donating to charities instead of giving me gifts. I was gratified and delighted. Lovely as they are, I don’t need flowers or other presents to know how they feel about me. But now, my son, Jake, who had laughingly told me he wasn’t “that unselfish” to give up his own birthday, has taken the next step.
“So, you’ve inspired me,” he wrote last week, under the heading, “What I want for Christmas.”
He went on to say, “I’m going to be a little more selfish, though, and specify what charity I’d like you to donate to: Child’s Play Charity.” Jake, who holds down a responsible job, loves to play video games in his free time. He picked a charity that provides video games, videos, and other toys to children in hospitals. It can get pretty boring for a kid in a hospital — something Jake knows well enough after a football injury and a motorcycle incident.
It’s a deal. That’s what he’ll get from us for his Christmas present: a video game for kids he’ll never know.
We hadn’t heard of Child’s Play at Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL), so we emailed Kristin Lindsay, Child’s Play project manager, to find out more.
BPGL: Who founded Child’s Play — and most important — why?
LINDSAY: We were founded back in November 2003, by Mike “Gabe” Krahulik and Jerry “Tycho” Holkins, who are the artist and writer of the most popular internet-based webcomic in the world, Penny Arcade. Penny Arcade
itself is based on video games and video game culture.
They were inspired at the time by a mainstream media news article that painted video gamers in a violent light, something that Mike and Jerry knew was a very unfair stereotype. They decided on the spur-of-the-moment to hold a Christmas toy drive for their local pediatric hospital, Seattle Children’s. In a mere three weeks, they collected an overwhelming $250,000 worth of toys, mailed to them by the video game community. Based on that success, they committed to making the drive an annual event, and expanding to other hospitals.
BPGL: Your website shows more than $400,500 in donations in your “first week,” yet you’ve been around since 2003. What’s that about?
LINDSAY: While Child’s Play now collects cash donations year round, our toy drive component is a seasonal event, running during November and December of each year. We currently have over $450,000 in donations for 2009, which includes cash donations received this year, as well as the toys now being shipped to our partner hospitals.
BPGL: If I donate a video game, am I giving it to a specific child at the hospital I choose, or does it go into a library for kids to check it out?
LINDSAY: The large video games and consoles are kept permanently in each hospital, by our request. Some of our partner facilities put them in communal playrooms, some have consoles in every patient room, and some lend them out as part of their library systems. It varies from place to place, but they do all keep them as part of their entertainment set ups.
Other items donated through us, such as books, toys, crafts, movies, hand-held [games], etc. are donated with no conditions, and the hospitals are free to do as they please with those items. Some hospitals keep them for their waiting rooms, and some are used as reward gifts and/or Christmas presents for the patients.
BPGL: When I decide which hospital I’d like to donate to, do I just pick any game I like?
LINDSAY: We encourage each hospital to send us their requests, and many of them ask their patients directly for input as to what games they would like to play. You can go to the Child’s Play website and click on the hospital of your choice. That will take you to the list of games the hospital has requested. Buy any item or items you like. We’ll make sure the hospital gets them in time for Christmas.
BPGL: Consider it done.