By Kathy Isdale
If you still think of video gamers as a bunch of nerdy, juvenile individuals who play games online to escape the real world and avoid real-world relationships—who really ought to find some useful, grown-up pastime like running or cycling—meet the gamers of Extra Life.
On October 17, 2009, more than 1,800 men and women of all ages from around the world convened in cyberspace for Extra Life, a 24-hour online video gaming marathon that raised more than $170,000 for pediatric cancer research and treatment at Texas Children’s Cancer Center.
More than 3,400 video gamers and their supporters—from every state in the United States and the District of Columbia, seven Canadian provinces and 173 cities in 26 other countries—gave nearly 4,000 gifts to Texas Children’s. Here in Houston, an overnight “lock-in” hosted by Alegria Dance & Performing Arts Center turned the Internet event into a face-to-face social experience for local gamers.
Extra Life is spearheaded by Cox Radio-Houston personality Jeromy “Doc” Adams and his wife, Lesley, as an online charity effort hosted by sarcasticgamer.com, an Internet-based gaming community the couple launched about six years ago.
“It works like any other charity marathon, and contributions are made using Texas Children’s online giving page,” Doc says. “We wanted to give gamers the opportunity to do what runners and bikers do, without the caloric output.”
Doc and Lesley became involved with Texas Children’s a few months after their first child was born in 2004, when Doc helped organize and broadcast the hospital’s first Cure Kids Cancer radiothon for Texas Children’s Cancer Center. “The kids there changed our lives,” says Doc, who recently joined the Children’s Miracle Network organization to help hospitals in a four-state area run their own radiothons.
Extra Life, whose name comes from an old gaming term, was born after the death of a young girl whose courage and spirit in the face of cancer had touched him deeply, Doc says. “Now, we’re arming doctors and nurses and researchers with what they need to fight cancer and give the kids that extra life—another chance at beating this disease.”
The Adamses credit the power of online social networking and the energy and commitment of gamers with the tremendous success of Extra Life. Doc says, “Gamers are an amazing and diverse group, and they’re incredibly generous.”
“Extra Life pays back a thousand times the effort you put in,” he says. “There’s no better way to set an example for your kids.” The Adams kids—Jack, 6, Max, 5, and Stella, 3—all participate in Extra Life.
“They know they’re helping sick kids,” Lesley notes.
Doc adds that video games are no longer “just something dumb that I sit on my couch and do. Now when I look at video games, I look at what they have done for kids with cancer. And at least once a year, I get to say, ‘Not right now, Honey—I’m busy curing cancer.’ ”