The joy that children experience while playing games is priceless. However, access to play is not available to all children. When a child is sick and requires an extended hospital stay or their family experiences hardship, items like toys, books, and games can be out-of-reach luxuries. However, one organization is looking to change that.

Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade, a video game culture website, founded the gaming-industry charity Child’s Play in 2003. As gaming enthusiasts, Krahulik and Holkins understood the mental and physical benefits of play, and the pair was committed to showcasing the advantages of all types of play for children and teens—in particular, interactive play like video games.

The organization’s first fundraiser helped raise over $250,000 for Seattle Children’s Hospital, and the charity has since expanded worldwide, donating over $44 million to more than 180 children’s hospitals around the world and 200 domestic violence shelters in the United States.

Child’s Play gathers donations for its network hospitals through an Amazon Wish List program that allows donors to buy items that are then sent directly to the hospital of their choice. The organization also provides an annual monetary donation to partner hospitals that the staff can use to buy the games and technology its patients need. Special events and programs help raise additional funds for the organization throughout the year. The annual Child’s Play Charity Auction, held virtually in 2020 and 2021, is an event for the “geeky and nerdy community” to dress up and bid on memorabilia, art pieces, and experience packages.

The donations Child’s Play provides to children’s welfare centers are invaluable, but this is not the only impact the organization is making. Through its capacity building grants and equipment grants, Child’s Play helps technical specialists modernize gaming technology in wellness facilities that are used to improve the lives of the children staying there, as well as fund updates to existing equipment.

Although toys and games are not a cure for the problems many children face, they can offer an escape, a creative outlet, and a glimmer of hope for those who need it most. Child’s Play’s mission, “Play Games, Feel Better,”
is a testament to just how powerful play can be in a child’s journey toward healing.

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