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The following is a series of interviews done with several influential people who are involved with Extra Life. Extra Life is a fundraising event that is created to raise money for children’s hospitals. Anyone can get involved by playing video games and getting donations. In order to participate, please click here.

Extra Life Interview

Q- What inspired Extra Life?

A- Extra Life was inspired by a young leukemia patient named Victoria “Tori” Enmon who loved playing video games while undergoing treatment, but lost her battle to cancer in January 2008. Learn more about this inspiring young lady and the amazing legacy she left behind, here.

Q- What are some stories from Extra Life that keep you going? (Note: You can find the stories at the bottom of the page)

A- There are so many! I have attached 3 examples.

Q- How much has Extra Life given to hospitals and what is your goal this year?

A- Since its inception in 2008, Extra Life participants have raised more than $22 million for local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Q- What can you tell us about the beginning of Extra Life? Challenges, stories, etc.

A- Extra Life began as a 24-hour video game marathon to raise money for Texas Children’s Hospital. In its first two years, Extra Life raised $302,000 for the hospital, and participants began to express their desires to raise funds for the children’s hospitals serving their own communities. When the founder, Jeromy Adams, left his radio career to work for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, he knew this was the perfect opportunity to expand Extra Life into more communities. And the response has been incredible.

Q- Do you plan on expanding EL to other charitable organizations?

A- Extra Life is actually a Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals program. Participants play for the member children’s hospital serving their community — one of 170 across North America. This way, gamers have a major impact on local kids. Find your member hospital and learn why children’s need support at CMNHospitals.org.

Q- Do you have anything you’d like to add?

A- Game Day this year is on Saturday, Nov. 5. Gamers of all kinds can sign up to be a hero at Extra-Life.org. Extra Life partners with some of the largest names in the gaming industry, including Twitch, PlayStation, Rooster Teeth, reddit, Wizards of the Coast, Humble Bundle, ESA Foundation, XSplit, Trion Worlds, and Looney Labs- all in support of the —CMN Hospitals mission to save and improve the lives of as many children as possible.

Playing With Fire – Twitch Charity Team

Q- What made you think of starting PwF?

A- It was a lot of small to big things.  I’ve always had a heart for helping others. I feel if everyone took the time to focus on others, there wouldn’t be a reason to be selfish (heh, does that sound too naive?) It came from a realization as to what Twitch could offer.  As a big extrovert personality, Twitch’s platform already speaks to me.  Being able to game, make people laugh, grow a community really just re-energizes me. But when I learned of Extra Life, it was like a light bulb went off.  

Getting the ability to do all of this, AND help people? Done, I couldn’t create a Twitch profile fast enough.  But I knew in order for it to really help people, we needed to empower my new fellow broadcasters.  A lot of team’s out there will do charity stuff here and there, I wanted to create a team where that’s the focus 100%.  You start to see people really thinking of others.  Like recently, there’s a horrible hurricane situation going on in Florida right now. I have teammates reaching out to me, already prepared to do charity streams to help out.  If, God forbid, Florida needs the support, team PwF will try to help where we can.  I love where their hearts are at.

Q– Do you have any personal stories that inspired you or drive you to do this?

A- Growing up in a “broken home” situation, there was a phrase I heard all the time, “Live together, die alone.”  Without a father figure around, my family dynamic adjusted to help out. That saying meant we pool together to live a fulfilling life, or we try to do things by ourselves, and a piece of us dies.  I guess I tend to use this in a lot of areas of my life, including charity.  

Coming together as a community helps on so many levels.  It allows us to not only offer greater amount of help to those in need, but helps us out as well. “Many hands make light work” and all that.  A big inspiration is also the understanding of how broken our system is here in America.  

Debt is at the center of so much in this country.  I suffer from over $200K of it just going to college.  Mind boggling when you hear student loan debt is in the trillions.  I’m stressed 24/7 because of this.  So imagine having that kind of stress, added on top of life and death stuff. Kids facing their own mortality, parents beside themselves with grief, to then have to worry about a soul crushing bill on top of it?!  No.  I’m sorry, but that’s screwed up.  

That’s why Extra Life was such a no brainer for me.  A family shouldn’t ever have to worry about keeping a roof over their head or food on the table, especially when their child’s life may be in danger. That’s one of the reasons why my team and I put so much hard work into this.

Q– How much did PwF raise last year and how much are you expecting this year?

A- Well, we started our first charity stream at the end of May of 2015 if memory serves.  From then to now PwF has raised around $73,000 dollars.  Supporting Extra Life, St. Jude, and Stack-Up.
It’s crazy to think about.  At first it was just myself and Kreenpananas.  Met Kreen through a random encounter on Twitch, been friends ever since.  Really good heart on that guy, good dancer too.  Was also a Twitch vet, so definitely helped teach me a few things.  Talked to him about this crazy idea of charity and streaming, and he was all for it.  

Then I was introduced to Danotage through a mutual friend. A wonderful guy who was barely starting out on Twitch himself.  Dan really knows his stuff, and as a radio broadcaster, he’s no stranger to putting on a show.  Then finally met Ashleeeeean.  Once again, pure happenstance.  She was already Partnered on Twitch and had an impressive following.  Extremely smart, big heart, and owns people in shooters.  I told her what I wanted to do here on Twitch and she was all for it!  From there things started falling into place.  

I called the hospital itself; UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Abdur, the hospital’s Project Coordinator, was quick to help and brought me into the Extra Life Bay Area guild.  The first ever Twitch Con hit, and I took the time to reach out to as many streamers as I could.  We ended 2015 with about 14 team members and almost $20K raised.  Fast forward to now we’re at 40 streamers and a little over $53K raised.  As November is the big charity push, I hope for us to raise around $100K total.

Q-Do you plan on expanding your brand?

A-As for extending the “brand,” I have thought about it.  We’ve started branching out with a website, thanks to the hard work of Chhopsky and FuriousFiefdom.  I’m trying to get us sponsored by Razer so we can be an eSports team sent to tournaments to win for charity.  I’d love to have a clothing line so people can show their support and profits can go to various charities.  I want, for what our name says, for people to play with fire (not in the literal sense mind you).  But to play with that passion that burns inside all of us. For that “fire” to help others, spread from person to person.  A single flame can be blown out, but together we’re a global fire that no one can extinguish.

Team Soraka

Q– What made you think of starting Team Soraka and do you have any personal stories that keep you going?

A- Cancer is pretty personal for me – at home and at work.  I’m a cancer scientist working on bringing life-saving treatment to people where other treatments have failed. Something often brushed aside when people are fundraising for cancer research or awareness is the actual care and support while they are in the hospital – and often their family too. In this way Extra Life is special – a lot of the funding from Extra Life goes not only to research, but developing and maintaining progams that actually keep these hospitals running, subsidizing the patient’s stay, supporting the patient and family, and making it a better experience overall for the patient to have a chance at a normal life.

Having a life-changing disease is not only impactful to the patient, but to the family as well. There are a lot of support systems offered to the family that you might not see at a traditional hospital. Hopefully these kids will be able to resume a “normal” lifestyle as much as possible, and these hospitals provide a great chance.

Q– What is your goal for this year?

A- Our goal this year is $10,000 – but I’m hoping we’ll change it to $25,000. Depending on how many people, we should be able to do it.

Q– Is there anything else you would like to add?

A- We are featuring people that are streaming on TeamSoraka.com. We are looking into expanding into supporting Charity: water and Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Stories:

Lee Smith: I have been the child this charity helps, that is Why I Extra Life.

“What inspires me to participate in Extra Life is my experiences. At around age six, we discovered I had multiple congenital heart defects. Trips to Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi became a regular thing for me. I was in and out of that hospital for many doctor’s appointments, check-ups, tests, follow-ups, and several heart surgeries until I was 18.

I have been the patient. I have been the child this charity helps. I have seen and interacted with other children in the hospital. I know how serious and scary the hospital is for them and having to face it as a child.

I had help and support. It came from my family and friends, but also from people who were total strangers to me. I do not know where I would be without the support of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, getting me through years and years of tests and surgeries that would be too expensive to handle without them.

Extra Life provides a way to combine support for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals with gaming. That is the best of both worlds for me. It takes something that I already do, and puts it to a cause that’s near and dear to me.

This will be my third year participating, and I look forward to raising money for local kids. I am glad I have a way to give to a charity that gave so much to me. I can help kids that have to face cancer to serious injuries and everything in between. To be able to play for the very hospital that handled all my tests and surgeries, Batson Children’s Hospital? Well, that is a major bonus to me as well.”

Steve Silver: I am streaming myself for 24 hours to donate to kids and dedicate my time to being a kid!

“When I was born, doctors saw the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. When they cut the cord, the scissors punctured through and created a small hole in my neck. I did not realize this until I was in sixth grade and saw it one night while brushing my teeth. You can imagine how worried I was about it when I told my mom, “I have a hole in my neck!”

I spent the first six months of my life in a hospital with dysphagia, a disorder that causes the throat trouble switching from swallowing to breathing. I was on machines for treatment and medication until I turned one.

Shortly after coming home from the hospital, I literally choked to death one morning. I had no pulse, and my mother performed constant CPR, bringing me back just before the ambulance arrived.

Now, I am a Producer in the Video Games industry, and I find myself thinking about the joy I received from games as a child. Games provide an escape from problems in the world, provide a place to solve problems in unimaginable ways. I socialized, learned and had fun playing games. Games distracted me from pain, but also educated and ignited my imagination.

Now that I work in the industry, I rarely have time to play games I have purchased. When I participate in Extra Life this year, I will not only stream, but crush my way through my unplayed list of games. Instead of buying games this October, I am going to donate my money to kids, and my time to being a kid.”

Joshua Lopez: I am dediating Extra Life to my brother, Christian Lopez.

“I am participating in Extra Life this year in honor of my brother and best friend, Christian Lopez. Christian passed away this August due to cancer, stage 4 Rhabdomyosarcoma. He was 13 years old and loved life, laughing, music, travel, wrestling, sports and video games.

On November 5th, I’m live streaming Chris’ favorite games, eating his favorite foods and listening to his favorite music. Playing with me will be Chris’ other siblings, cousins, and friends. People will stop by the stream throughout the day to join in. We will eat hot peppers, have in-game tournaments, wear costumes, do pushup contests, take requests from our viewers, and possibly have give-a-ways.

All proceeds will go to Boston Children’s Hospital (affiliated with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) where Chris was treated for 17 months in 2015 and 2016.

Losing my brother has been the toughest, most surreal experience. It leads to a bittersweet existence. I live with frequent knots in my throat. I hold back tears in public. I live with fading memories. I live life with a void that always feels surreal.

I will forever be nostalgic for a time I will never get back. However, that is exactly the reason I am joining Extra Life this year. For families going through the same hardships that my family went through. Ultimately, if I can help another family and spread my brother’s memory in the process, it will have been worth the effort. That is why I Extra Life.”

 

Legionof7 is an eSports writer and social media expert. He is interested in League of Legends and CS:GO. One day he would like to manage his own team. If you have a million dollars for this, please email him.