Arts & Events

Child’s Play, a unique Seattle-based charity provides video games for hospitalized children

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ny child of the 90s who’s worth his weight in Pogs will remember those sleepless winter nights, the Christmas Eves whose distant, golden mornings promised Gameboys, Pokemon cards and Super Mario.

Those of us who still harbor warm memories of the games that shaped our childhood do well to pass on that joy to those who need it most. Children in hospitals across the country receive much-needed toys and games donated by gamers giving back and mediated by the charity organization Child’s Play.

Child’s Play was founded by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, creators of seminal gaming webcomic Penny Arcade. The Seattle-based duo bemoaned the negative image of the gaming community as violent and antisocial and rebuked critics by founding the charity in November of 2003—their first drive raised over $250,000 in toys and donations for the Seattle’s Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center, Newswire reported.

Since then the charity has expanded to countries like England, Egypt and New Zealand, drawn a number of corporate and celebrity sponsors including Nintendo, Google and Wil Wheaton, and collected an inspiring cumulative total over $10 million.

Hospitals provide Child’s Play with “wishlists” of toys, books and games, and contributors can go on Amazon.com to fulfill these specific needs. Cash donations are just as welcome.

Money is raised through a number of intermediaries, including the annual Child’s Play Charity Dinner, which features an auction of game-related treasures and an appearance in a Penny Arcade strip. The sixth annual Charity Dinner was held last night in Bellevue. Donations from the auction will bolster a strong 2011 total that passed the $1 million mark in November.

The charity has inspired a handful of third-party drives like the Mario Marathon, an idea of web developer Brian Brinegar. Brinegar and chums attempt to play through the Super Mario series nonstop and streaming to an online audience—viewers unlock new levels by making donations. Their website claims that the Mario Marathon has raised over $235,000 for Child’s Play since its inception in 2008.

One of the most successful contributors to the charity is the Humble Indie Bundle, an experiment of Wolffire Games that has since broken off into an independent company.

The Bundle is a pay-what-you-want pack of independent, DRM-free games that lets the buyer decide where his money will go—to the starving game developers, to the Bundle organizers or to Child’s Play. The Bundle has brought in over $7 million since May of 2010.

This year’s Child’s play fundraiser is looking to be their biggest yet, so keep your eyes open for the fourth Humble Indie Bundle, out this holiday season (on humblebundle.com), and consider making a donation to a charity that is saving Christmas with video games. Visit childsplaycharity.org/testimonials for touching proof of the very real impact Child’s Play and its supporters have on so many families.

One parent writes, “To be sitting there with your child who can barely move for all the tubes and wires connected to him, who hasn’t been able to eat for days and hasn’t been home in weeks, who can’t remember the last time he didn’t feel awful and wonders if he’ll ever feel good again, and have him laugh out loud when he crashes his go-kart in a video game… well, there aren’t words so I won’t try.”

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