Loud music and video games may trigger nightmares for some parents, but a Seattle-based charity sees them as salvation, using the combination to help patients at children's hospitals across the country.
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Child's Play started in 2003 at Seattle Children's Hospital and now has a network of more than 70 hospitals across the country, plus two in England and one in Cairo. The charity raises money and provides young patients with video games, books and toys. The creators of an online comic strip called “Penny Arcade” founded the charity and tapped into their fan base for donations. The comic chronicles the lives of avid video gamers, and the founders wanted to use gaming to help children in need. Volunteers across the country host local fundraisers to benefit patients in their area hospitals. Money also is used to replace play equipment at hospitals.
A member hospital must be not-for-profit and have a “good number of beds,” a Child's Play spokeswoman said. Hospital officials come up with wish lists and the volunteers aim to fulfill the requests. The charity's website allows would-be donators to find a hospital, click on a wish list and send a gift. The holidays are the busiest time for the charity, but they're looking to grow their network. Details on joining and how to donate are listed at childsplaycharity.org. So far this year they've raised a little under $800,000.
Events vary, as a Nov. 20 fundraiser in Chicago featured a Rock Band video game competition. The event benefitted Comer Children's Hospital at the University of Chicago. Amy Carter, a child life specialist at the hospital, said video games provide a good distraction for young patients undergoing painful treatments. Some video games with motion controls, such as the Nintendo Wii, even assist in physical therapy, helping patients to recover faster.
“Our goal is to make the hospital a little easier for kids and families while they visit to reduce their anxiety,” Carter said.
A concert featuring the four-piece prog-rock band Minibosses also was part of the Chicago event. The group garnered a cult following with YouTube videos by playing their own versions of video game themes played on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Minibosses translates the simple synthesized beeps that were heard from televisions in the 1980s and create epic guitar melodies. However, there's one song the band refuses to play: the theme to Super Mario Bros. They feel that classic is overplayed.
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