Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A New Extra Life

There have been quite a few things I could feel compelled to write about this time around: the aggravation of trying to find and watch Olympic events on TV that don’t comprise Swimming, Gymnastics, or Track and Field (and even some of the Field events) at a normal working stiff’s time of day.

Or perhaps another tirade about the idiocy of our current political situation in America, and the absolute frustration of never having a genuine choice in an election when one not a political party idiotic drone who would have no idea who to vote for if the name of the parties were left off the ballot and all those running would just be one long mixed list.

But I am hoping to remain on a positive note for the next couple of months in this blog, and talk more about something that I have been passionate about for the last few years. I wrote about Extra Life last October (check out the previous blogs entries on the right – October 8th), so I want to expand upon that as we begin approaching the main event for 2016.

Earlier this summer, the doldrums had a hold of me once again. They seem to come and go a couple times a year at random, and I have never really figured out what can bring an onset of them over me. This time however, I think it was a case of some news reports, the beginning of summer, and Extra Life. Yup, that very thing I am passionate about put me down in the dumps. Now, one would think that summer arriving wouldn’t be all that depressing, but I guess I was already starting in that frame of mind, because the strange thought struck me that the beginning of the summer is really the beginning of the end.

The first day of summer is the longest day of the year, so all summer long, the days are getting shorter and we are slowly losing all that extra daylight we were getting all through Spring. I just found that very disheartening. Summer was one of the best times of the year, back in those days of yore when the only thing one had to worry about was the planning of the next Super Intergalactic Battle between every action figure IP available at the time, plus a few imaginary ones, and the return of the school year seemed a long way off. Now the only thing to think about is how the sun was just a little lower in the horizon every day while heading off to work.

Next up was that news story about the little boy in Florida who was on a family vacation and was killed by an alligator. That one especially hit home since he was close to Abby’s age, and I couldn’t help but imagine myself in the father’s position as everything unfolded in front of his eyes, and the absolute lack of power to be able to do anything to stop it. Both I and a co-worker of mine teared up talking about it since she also has a boy who was around the same age.

The culmination of that was gearing up for Extra Life. As part of the yearly promotions EL does for their fundraising, they produce videos that highlight what the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals do and the reasons why fundraising for them is so important. Some of those videos highlight a family whose child has required the resources of a CMN hospital. I have posted one or two of them already on Facebook, but there are more, and the unfortunate part is that not all of them have happy endings. Again, as I watch these videos, I can’t help but put myself in the position of the family as their child suffers through some ailment that requires hospitalization and treatment. I am forever thankful that I have two healthy children who (knock on wood) have not needed the services of our local CMN hospital – The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The powerlessness I feel just watching the videos would only be compounded in spades if it was my own child who was suffering.

That’s why I am an Extra Lifer, and am in my fourth year of participating in the fundraising organization. I may not have the power to cure and stop the suffering of these kids myself, but I do have the power to make sure that the hospitals that these kids need to survive have everything at their disposal to do what I can’t.

Fortunately, our annual vacation to Hershey came at just the right time to reset my mindset and remind me of all the positive I can do by talking about and promoting Extra Life. Plus, my inclusion this year as part of the Official Extra Life Stream Team makes this all the better. For those who are unfamiliar, streaming is sort of like a live TV broadcast. I’m sure pretty much everyone knows YouTube and streaming is very much in that vein – people upload videos of everything under the sun on YouTube and streaming is just the same thing except the video is broadcast across the Internet live, as the action is currently happening. The go to site for streaming is for right now, though Facebook and YouTube have started getting into the action as well. Regardless, the Extra Life organization thought it would be a great idea to get a bunch of people together to stream videos on the official Extra Life channel on Twitch last fall, around the time the main event 24 hour marathon was planned. It went over so well, that they continued the Stream Team into this year, and it has continued to grow.

Gaming has always been a part of my life. It’s just another form of entertainment that I have always enjoyed along with reading books and watching movies. The difference with gaming, though, is that it is more interactive and immersive because, through games, I can be part of the story that is unfolding, and can shape that story based on my actions as I play. It allows me to escape those depressing things in the real world and gives me the control that I can never have going about the drudgery of the daily grind. It allows me to truly be the hero that I can’t be in real life.

The truly amazing part is that gaming is universal. Anyone can play a game – be it a baseball game, a game of Hearts, a computer or console game, or a board game. Heck, we have all played a game of Tic Tac Toe. Now with the Internet and On-line games that allow people from all over the world to play the same game at the same time, we can break through cultural and language barriers and be united in a game just like the athletes on the field in Rio de Janeiro are united in competition. I have played games with kids no older than Erin and also with grandmothers in their 60’s and 70’s (and they kicked my butt!) I am currently playing a castle building and warfare game where I am literally playing with people from all over the world – Poland, Russia, Australia, Spain, France, Africa – you name a country, and more than likely I can find someone from that country in the game. Nowhere else can you get that and have everyone enjoying what they are doing together with no hate and no fear of one another (except for their elite army of knights coming for your village).

Games bring people together, and that’s why gaming is perfectly suited for something like Extra Life. It gives us gamers (and I consider everyone who plays a game of some kind a gamer) a way to come together and be heroes in real life. But it takes more than just sitting down and playing a game. It takes people who can emphasize with the families who we are playing for to really make the difference. Extra Life cannot exist without us gamers to come together to play and promote the fundraiser, but at the end of the day, we can’t do what we do without the generosity of people willing to donate money to help these hospitals perform the function for which they are so vital.

I am extremely grateful to all the friends and family who have donated to CHOP through my Extra Life efforts over these last four years. Every dollar, every penny, counts towards helping CHOP, and all the CMN hospitals across North America (US, Canada, and Puerto Rico) with funding research, purchasing new equipment, and treating children, regardless of whether the family can pay for that treatment or not. So over these next few months leading up to this year’s main event marathon (November 5th and 6th), I hope to provide updates and insights in this blog and will implore all who read to help me reach my goal in raising as much money as I can for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, regardless of where you live. At the end of the day, the particular hospital for which we are playing is not as important as the fact that the money the hospital receives goes towards helping a child somewhere in North America get better. I participate in Extra Life as part of a team of other gamers who I met through gaming and make it a point to donate to each and every one of them as encouragement, regardless of which hospital they represent, for that very reason I just mentioned.

Over 112 million dollars have thus far been spent on Political advertisements by the two Presidential candidates. That is an insane amount of money for mud slinging ads that could do so much good in the hands of these CMN hospitals. Please help me continue to be a Hero in Real Life by supporting my efforts with Extra Life and making a donation #ForTheKids.