WINTER PARK – A charity video gaming event at Full Sail University sailed past its $10,000 goal on Saturday evening and exceeded $12,000 raised for Arnold Palmer Hospital.
More than 500 gamers spent a portion of a 25-hour period that ended at about 8 a.m. on Sunday playing video games after soliciting donations from fans and friends.
“We are grateful for any support we can get but this taps into a group of individuals that sometimes get overlooked,” Stephen Dinon, Arnold Palmer Hospital’s manager of corporate partnerships, told The OVG. “We are excited that they have engaged and are just going with it.”
The event – in its third year at Full Sail University – drew a record 535 participants, an increase from the 121 who participated last year and the 23 who contributed in its inaugural year.
Dinon said being on site gave the organization a chance to interact with the gamers and ensure them that their donations were being put to good use.
“This is not going to a nebulous place,” he said. “The dollars go directly to the hospital.”
The event was a local version of Extra Life, a group that has been organizing game-a-thons to raise money for charities since 2008.
The group has raised more than $50 million for sick and injured kids since its inception.
“It’s being able to do something you love – play video games – and interact with other students while you’re also doing good,” said Katie Brown-Bonafilia, a Full Sail faculty member in the social sciences department who helped coordinate and run the event. “Students who are interested have a passion for gaming and a passion for their community so they give back.”
Full Sail started organizing and promoting the local event through student groups in January.
The interest grew and, by Saturday, hundreds of local gamers, streamers, faculty members and members of Full Sail’s esports team the Armada showed up for the 25-hour marathon.
Full Sail University students Charles Little has been streaming live gameplay for about two years.
“It’s always been a matter of ‘playing it forward,’” he said. “This is the perfect way to combine my passion with a way to give back to the community, too.”
Little, a 3d texture model student at the school, said raising money while playing games was the perfect combination.
“It’s a blessing to see others share your passion,” said Little, 25. “We are nerds with ambition. We have this great opportunity and I realized I can raise some money and make a difference. It’s been cool to see.”