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Gamers give back to Mott

Gamers Outreach team delivering Xbox 360 consoles they are helping C.S. Mott Children's Hospital install in patient rooms.Being in the hospital is a little more fun for kids at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, thanks in part to the generous support of Gamers Outreach Foundation and the Mott Family Network. And, it’s about to get even more fun!

Gamers Outreach was founded by 25-year-old Zach Wigal. When Zach was in high school, he enjoyed a wide variety of activities, but playing video games was a favorite. So much so that he decided to organize a video game tournament in his hometown of Saline, Mich. Part of his goal was to have fun, but the other part was to help dispel the negative connotation that often accompanies gaming. More than 300 people registered for that first tournament and the event raised $4,000 for the Autism Society of America. It was through that event that Gamers Outreach Foundation was born.

After high school, Zach was introduced to the larger world of the gaming industry and his career began. He worked as a contractor for an event agency helping to set up gaming events across the country. He even served as the manager for a friend who is a professional gamer.

In 2009, he met with the Mott Children’s Hospital Mott Community Relations staff to see how Gamers Outreach could help Mott patients. While the hospital had gaming systems in the common playrooms, patients who were unable to leave their rooms did not have access to the games. They soon developed what’s now called a GO Kart, which is a complete gaming system that can be wheeled from room to room and quickly plugged in. The GO Karts are height adjustable so they can be adjusted to a patient’s bedside. Mott Children’s Hospital was the first hospital Gamers Outreach partnered with on the innovative GO Kart product.

“We wanted to create something that was easy to use. We couldn’t ask hospital staff to be connecting and un-connecting gaming systems from room to room. The GO Kart is easily moved and set up — you just plug it in and play,” says Zach. “Since then, we’ve been able to donate GO Karts to children’s hospitals across the country.”

When the hospital moved into a new 12-story building in 2011, patient rooms were equipped with special connectivity through which families could bring their own gaming system and easily hook it up to the large flat-screen TV’s in each patient’s private room.

Now, however, Mott and Gamers Outreach are taking things to the next level and working with hospital staff to install Xbox 360s in every patient room at Mott. “Each Xbox is also connected to Xbox Live, so kids in the hospital can be online playing games with their friends and family even if they live across the country or even the world. It’s a great way to stay connected and feel like a regular kid when you’re in the hospital,” says Zach. “The Xbox 360s also work as a DVD player so kids can watch their own movies, in addition to the free movies they can stream over the GetWellNetwork.”

Gamers Outreach was able to help the hospital acquire the Xbox systems at a discount, and funding for the project came from generous donations from the Mott Family Network.

The new in-room Xboxes have been installed in all rooms on 7 East, the pediatric oncology unit, and installation is expected to roll out over remaining pediatric units of the hospital over the course of the next year.

The Xbox 360s are just one way Mott helps kids feel like kids and make the best use of their time at the hospital. Child and Family Life staff also provide books, magazines, board games and crafting supplies to brighten up a child’s stay and help them cope and adjust during their treatment.

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best children's hospitalsUniversity of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.