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“Why I Extra Life?” New Jersey Extra Lifers Mike and Manda Share Their Answers

This past year, over 50,000 gamers committed to embark on Extra Life’s challenge to “play games, heal kids.” Every single person who makes this commitment can offer up a powerful story of why the life-saving work of our member children’s hospitals has impacted their community. Today, I wanted to explore the stories of two of our most dedicated Extra Lifers.

I sat down with Mike and Manda, who have been radically committed to helping kids in both British Columbia and New Jersey for a combined 17 years now. Their creative ideas just might inspire you to take your Extra Life efforts to the next level.

How did you hear about Extra Life?

Manda: I first heard about Extra Life in 2010, when I started hanging around with the crew at Sarcastic Gamer. It was my first year as a game journalist, so these folks were among some of my first industry contacts and friends. Hard to believe that it was 10 years ago now.

Mike: My first experience with Extra Life was in 2013, after I started working at Game Informer. While I couldn’t be in attendance at their big annual event (I worked remotely), I wanted to be part of the excitement. I took a number of years off, but we wanted to come back in a big way in 2019. Extra Life with Manda wasn’t just something to do. It was a way to help mobilize our community of friends and family for a purpose. 

Why it is so personal to you? Why do you Extra Life?

Manda: When I first started raising money for Extra Life in 2010, it was to honour my niece (“Z”), who had been diagnosed with leukemia two years prior. Her cancer had long since gone into remission, but it was such a tumultuous, terrifying time of our lives that I knew that I needed to raise money for kiddos in similar situations who might not have the financial and familial support that Z had with us. 

My fundraising reasons have evolved over the years, especially as Z has gotten older, but what hasn’t changed is the foundation: being a kid with a chronic or life-threatening illness takes its toll in many ways and by raising money for local children’s hospitals, we can bolster a child’s mental health while they work on getting better physically. Games have always united my family, so being able to pay that forward to children that need that “extra life” is incredibly important.

Mike: I’ve been lucky. Our kids are in good health, and we haven’t needed the wonderful services provided by the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. But it’s just that… luck. With the current state of healthcare in the United States and so many families in need, this is a way I can help point my network of friends and family to a worthwhile cause. For us, it’s playing games for 24 (or 25) hours. For a sick child, Extra Life could be the thing that helps fund the treatment that saves their life. 

Which hospital do you support?

Manda: When I first started raising money for Extra Life, I was living in Vancouver, BC, so I was raising money for BC Children’s Hospital. Now that I live in Northern New Jersey, Mike and I raise money for Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside, NJ. 

What works for fundraising? Anything creative?

Manda: Before the advent of streaming, what worked well was raffles and prizes. These days, now that we stream on Mixer, it’s all about creating engaging, inclusive conversations with the folks that are sitting in the audience and watching us play together. Our biggest push was while we were playing Life is Strange 2 and discussing some heavy topics with our community. 

We do code giveaways, as well, but there’s no donation required. We just want to share the love.

Mike: We’re so grateful to our developer and publisher colleagues across the industry for supporting our fundraising efforts. Social media was crucial to our fundraising this year. We engaged our Twitter followers and our Facebook communities to introduce our campaign, promote our stream in advance, and update throughout the day. We managed to get most of the way to our first fundraising goal before we even started, allowing us to achieve three stretch goals during Extra Life 2019.

We’re so excited to be fundraising in 2020, feel free to support our campaign here.

Don’t forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!