Every day, 89,280 children enter Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals® for treatment. While some only face small ailments like a broken bone, others face far more difficult challenges. Cancer, cystic fibrosis, birth defects – Children’s Hospital treats them all, regardless of the family’s ability to pay.
Victoria Enmon was a vibrant, boisterous little girl. On her cheerleading squad, she was dubbed “the flier,” the person that the squad would toss into the air during certain cheers. She loved tumbling and gymnastics. But when she was about 11 years old, Victoria began to experience muscle weakness. At first, her parents assumed it was a flu or a virus, but it wasn’t getting better. When she began fainting, her family knew something was wrong. They took her to the doctor and were immediately referred to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.
Victoria was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the bone marrow and blood cells. At the time, this type of leukemia had an 80 percent cure rate, and the family was hopeful that Victoria would see positive results after her 2 ½ year treatment.
Jeromy “Doc” Adams
In 2005, Jeromy “Doc” Adams was attending Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ very first Radio-a-Thon at a Houston radio station when he met Victoria. Over the next couple of years, the two would become friends. When Victoria relapsed for the second time, she was given a bone marrow transplant and required a very long hospital stay. Adams put out a call through his Sarcastic Gamer podcast for donations of video games to help keep Victoria entertained.
The response was beyond anything anyone could have imagined. Video games poured in from all over the world. Victoria received so many games that she was completely overwhelmed, and she began giving them to other children who were stuck in the hospital.
During the 2007 holiday season, a ravaged immune system left Victoria suffering from an acute fungal infection. Jeromy Adams was visiting her in the hospital, and the two stepped outside so that the 15-year-old could see the Christmas lights. It was the last memory that Adams would share with the teenager.
The Birth of a Fundraiser
Victoria passed away January 21, 2008, after battling leukemia for four years. It was during her funeral that Jeromy Adams was inspired to create the Extra Life fundraiser. Remembering that Victoria was an avid video gamer, and the response that he had received from the gaming community, Adams decided to mobilize gamers as a positive force.
On October 15, 2008, 1200 gamers gathered together to play video games for 24 hours to raise money in support of Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. The fundraiser quickly drew support from gamers across the country, and by 2010, the number of participating gamers had increased to 4500. By 2011, over 15,000 gamers were participating, and that year they raised over $1 million.
Gamers who wish to participate can sign up as individuals or in teams. There is no cost to participate, and each person who signs up is provided with a free website and other tools to help them raise money for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Although there is a minimum suggested donation of $24 (one dollar for every hour that gamers play on Game Day), donations of any size are accepted.
Video gaming is quickly becoming one of the most popular entertainment industries in the United States. Since the 1970s, the number of people who played video games has grown exponentially. In fact, according to statista, there were 53.6 million online console gamers in the U.S in 2017, and 49 percent of U.S. adults stated they’d played video games for fun at least once in their life.
But video games and the people who play them are often viewed negatively by society at large. The trope of the entitled, unemployed gamer sitting in their parents’ basement is all too common a trope in modern fiction and movies. When unspeakably violent events are perpetrated by a young person in our society, there will often be a rash of articles exploring whether or not video games (a hobby seen as preferred by young people) increases a teenager’s propensity towards violence.
But Adams, being a well-known member of the gaming community, had seen first-hand that these stereotypes were rarely true. He wanted to give gamers the opportunity to show what a positive force they could be, and his friendship with Victoria encouraged him to turn that force towards helping sick and injured children.
10 Years of Extra Life
On November 3, 2018, Extra Life will celebrate its 10th anniversary. In that 10 years, gamers from across the U.S. have raised more than $40 million for their local community Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Every dollar donated goes directly towards helping children receive the best care possible, regardless of their ability to pay. This will be my 5th year participating personally, and I am incredibly proud to be a part of such a fun and impactful event. If you’d like to donate, all proceeds will benefit Children’s Hospital New Orleans – a 247-bed medical center that is the only full-service hospital exclusively for children located in Louisiana.
Every dollar counts. Help us make this year’s Extra Life better than ever.
Jenn Bentley moved to New Orleans with her husband and family in 2016. She has worked as a writer and editor for the past 10 years with publications like The High Tech Society, FansShare, Medium.com, and others. When she’s not writing or editing, Jenn spends her time raising money for Extra Life and advocating for autism awareness. In her time with Big Easy Magazine, she has covered issues like cannabis legalization and the economic impacts of short-term rentals.