It started out in part as a reaction to the media decrying gamers as malicious ne'er-do-wells, responsible for everything wrong with society (much the way MTV viewers were maligned in the 1980s). It's grown into a charity that not only benefits countless sick children around the world, but has stuffed a sock in the traps of the same people who thought those they called social misfits couldn't be counted on for anything, let alone a good deed.
Many of you may already be familiar with Penny Arcade's charity known as Child's Play. From meager beginnings of raising only a few thousand dollars in the first year (2003) to weighing in with over a million dollars in cash and gift donations last year, steady growth every year has been the norm. This year is no different. As just reported on the creators' site and the charity's site alike, they've officially broken the $1 million mark for this year, and there are still two and a half weeks remaining in the official 2008 drive.
In addition to numerous other events tied to the charity, the recent annual dinner auction brought in $200,000 itself, as gamers gathered to bid on rare and valuable items. To name a few, the auction held items like a Halo 3 Master Chief helmet signed by staff members from Bungie, Roosterteeth, and Penny Arcade; a bronze statue of an orc on a wolf mount from World of Warcraft; and a mint limited-edition black Dreamcast, autographed by Sega's former President Peter Moore.
The way their program helps children is that all the items (games, systems, toys, etc.) get donated directly to numerous children's hospitals. This again started small, benefiting only a few hospitals local to the guys in Seattle who started it all, and now has international reach, including Canada, the UK, and Australia among others. Of course, it's not all toys and games; a large sum of money typically goes into the charity as well each year, some of which is donated directly, while some is converted into more items the kids at specific hospitals may want.
The results have already been fantastic, improving the quality of life for sick children the world over, bringing joy to their otherwise dreary days stuck in bed, having tests run, or receiving uncomfortable treatment procedures and therapy. The hospitals have written and relayed numerous thank-yous to the charity's founders, and it really is just two gamers who happened to have a popular Web site, and opted to use their large, devoted audience for good. Of course, it also helps to right the ignorant perception that gamers are incapable of being caring and giving people. Despite the tough economic times in the United States, they look to meet or even exceed last year's total of $1.3 million in cash and other donations.
If you want to get involved, there is still time for this year's drive, and they have developed several ways for you to donate, making the process pretty easy. Right on the main site for the charity, they have PayPal and postal mail options for donating cash, as well as buying items to be shipped directly to the hospital from Amazon wish lists, cutting down on shipping fees that might otherwise come out of proceeds. You can access any hospital's wish list by clicking the icon for that hospital on the map on the Child's Play charity site. You don't have to be rich to help out, either. Some items in the wish lists only cost a few dollars; if you can and want to give more, there are certainly more pricey options. On the Activism page you can find greeting cards, t-shirts, bulletin board posters, and Web site banners you can use to spread the word. All purchase proceeds go directly into the charity fund.
It's the season of giving, and for very little time and money, you can help improve the lives of hospitalized children for years to come. With the premade Amazon.com wish lists, you really can't go wrong and don't have to worry about whether you got the right thing or not. You can get involved whether you're young or old, male or female, rich or poor, gamer or not. Justify it however you like – tax write-off, last-minute shopping, this year's good deed – but one thing can't be denied: giving feels good.