Friday, February 13, 2015

How One Protestor Transformed A Man's Gaming Mission

The good vibes keep rolling.

Zach Wigal felt his calling in life in high school, when he attempted to host a video game tournament at the Saline High School cafeteria, in Michigan. Over 300 people signed up for the Halo tourney, and it took one police office protesting it to shut down the entire event. The reason, the officer cited, was that video games were harmful to kids and did not promote positive behavior.

Wigal took that as a challenge to prove him wrong.

He started the non-profit Gamers Outreach Foundation. Their goal is simple: using games to help people. They have 3 projects under their umbrella. Project GO Karts are portable gaming devices to provide entertainment to children in hospitals. Fun For Our Troops supplies video game care packages to those serving in the military overseas. And Gaming4Others, a community outreach program where GOF helps coordinate tournaments and fundraisers for smaller communities.

Since 2007 the foundation has helped over 26,000 children, putting smiles on their faces during one of the roughest times of their lives by handing over a controller. The Project GO Karts is quite a unique read. Wigal and his friends initially volunteered at a hospital and found that the small rooms limited children's access to games. While the hospital was on board, they were concerned about how children would be monitored with the content, and they couldn't afford to invest in portable consoles such as the PSP or Nintendo DS. Wigal contacted a medical supply company about redesigning an approved, hospital regulated cart to fit their purposes - sticking a console on it and pushing it from room to room, to bring games to the hospital beds. The concept has been so successful that the Karts are even available at the Dallas, TX VA Medical Center.

It's remarkable what a little bit of ingenuity can do. The group's next big gaming tournament is at the end of February, and they expect more then 1,000 people to show up, with a $25,000 donation goal.


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