I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Zach Wigal for some years now. I’ve always been struck by his enthusiasm and never-ending desire to help. Not surprisingly, this desire to help started when Zach was pretty young.
While I could do my best to fill you in on how his quest to help others began, the wiki page for Gamers Outreach (the nonprofit foundation he helps run), does a better job of it:
In March 2007, seventeen-year-old Michigan native Zach Wigal had spent three months planning and organizing a Halo 2 tournament for his fellow peers and classmates at Saline High School. The teenager, along with a group of friends, had received permission from administrators to host a video game tournament in his high school’s cafeteria. Nearly three hundred individuals had registered to take part in one of the area’s first-ever competitive gaming tournaments.
Three days before the tournament was scheduled to take place, a local police officer (who belonged to a media censorship organization called the Parents Television Council) heard news of the teenager’s tournament, and adamantly protested the event be allowed to take place within the high school. According to a voicemail left for the school district’s superintendent, it was the opinion of the public safety officer that Halo 2 was “corrupting the minds of America’s youth” and that the gaming tournament was a hazard to the public safety of the community. Comparing the game to other M rated titles such as Grand Theft Auto and 25 to Life, the officer strongly suggested the event not take place on school property. The high school’s superintendent, convinced by the officer’s voicemail, quickly canceled the permit that had been given to Zach and his friends months earlier; citing public safety concerns as reason for cancellation.
Still determined to host a Halo tournament, Zach and his friends began putting together a new event with the hopes of raising money for charity to instead illustrate the positive impact people can make when they come together to play video games. The high school students set out to seek redemption, refuting the negative stereotypes and misconceptions they had experienced first hand that are often associated with video games.
Over the next few months, Gamers for Giving was born, an event that aimed to benefit a local chapter of the Autism Society of America. In the process of planning this new event, Gamers Outreach Foundation was created. Though the organization was originally established to help encourage and facilitate donations for the event, the foundation quickly began taking on a life of its own, maturing eventually into an organization with a clear vision and a simple goal – help people through video games.
Gamers for Giving went on to be a great success. Teaming with a local LAN party, the 2008 event featured a Halo 3 tournament alongside an MPCon BYOC LAN. Over 500 participants and spectators attended, generating $4,000.00 for the Autism Society of America.
In 2009, Gamers for Giving became the annual fundraising event of Gamers Outreach Foundation, and the organization itself experienced a re-launch, merging with two other well-established gaming charities: Fun For Our Troops and Gaming4Others. The organization currently works to develop and sustain initiatives that actually use video games in ways that help others.
One of the projects of the Gamers Outreach Foundation provides gaming carts to children’s hospitals all over the United States. Children who are forced to spend time in hospitals are often scared and lonely. To help ease these feelings, Gamers Outreach Foundation creates GO Karts and donates them to children’s hospitals.
When was the last time you were at a hospital for any length of time? Were you bored? Were you scared? Imagine having those feeling as a child and being unable to process them with an adult brain. Now imagine being able to put those thoughts out of your mind as you get your game on and engage in some of the activities you were able to do while at home.
The most recently donated GO Kart was donated to Rady Children’s hospital of San Diego during the week of June 23, 2015. In the year 2013, Rady provided care to more than 196,000 children. As one of the California’s largest children’s hospitals, the GO Kart donation will go a long way towards making children happy as they receive their medical attention and care.
This is but one of the GO Kart’s donated to children’s hospitals around the world by the Gamers Outreach Foundation. If you have children who are in need of medical attention or you are a young adult about to head into a hospital for treatment, what hospital would you rather choose? One with or without a GO Kart? I know what my answer would be!
For more information and to connect with Gamers Outreach Foundation, please visit the Facebook Page for Gamers Outreach Foundation.