r/AMA Highlights with GameChanger’s Founder and CEO: Jim Carol
Last month, we partnered with Reddit to share our vision, goals, and aspirations of GameChanger Charity with an AMA featuring our founder and CEO, Jim Carol. In this month’s blog we capture some major highlights from Jim’s AMA (read the whole AMA here) – from our beginnings to our futures:
I’m Jim Carol, founder, and CEO of GameChanger Charity, a non-profit that’s dedicated to improving the lives of isolated, hospitalized kids through the use of technology and games. I founded GameChanger in 2007 when my son Taylor was going through a 5-year battle with leukemia. Taylor and I saw the need to help families struggling to pay their bills gain access to safe, Ad free premium content, games, and educational tools. That is what motivated us to created GameChanger – to help democratize access. We’ve donated more than $26 million in support and technology to families and hospitals and now are partnering with some of the biggest companies and influencers in gaming and tech.
Q: Steve Huffman: “As you look back on the past 15 years, what are you most proud of? And 15 years from now, when you are looking back, what do you hope to see?”
A: We started this foundation 14 years ago while my sons, Taylor and Brandon, were both sick. It was a really dark, scary couple of years as both boys stood a genuine chance of not surviving. I am most proud of 3 things.
1) My wife and the women I witnessed as caregivers. My wife was a hospice nurse when we met in our early 20’s. When our boys were sick, Cynthia’s strength and stamina were amazing. Living in the hospital and visiting over 250 hospitals worldwide, I can share that a large percentage of the child life staff, nurses, and primary caregivers are women and Moms. Dads are great too, but I am so proud of witnessing how important, beyond the medicines, the role women play in healing sick children.
2) I am very proud of gamers and the gaming community. This is where 99% of our support has come from, I saw the power that games play for the hospitalized child, and the power and good of the gaming community.
3) I am very proud that we could turn our pain and suffering into a force for good. I am not sure I would have been able to do this work for 14 years if my sons hadn’t survived, but luckily, they did, and that gives me the inspiration to get up at 5 am every day and do this work.
Looking back in 15 years I will be very proud of how we inspired the biggest gaming firms in the world to pitch into a ‘conspiracy of good,’ a new breed of charity that leverages tech, gaming, and innovation to be part of something bigger than ourselves, that we created a trusted place where gamers and their families can pitch in to impact and help sick, isolated people directly. In 15 years, I see our technology going beyond hospitals so that we help all isolated people have hope, inspiration, and that we’ve created a level playing field for access to tech and gaming.
I will be proud if we have to create a workplace that rewards our employees very well, that we helped make their lives better, and that we created an efficient charity that can pay them better than just enough to get by.
Q:Is GameChanger working on any tools to help hospitalized kids continue not only to be able to play and watch passively, but also create content of their own?
A: Yes absolutely. GameChanger is not only a non-profit, but it is also a tech platform that is cloud-based, ad-free and we give it away for free to hospitals and the sick children they’re caring for. We offer some amazing content on the platform, including some that we know you enjoy yourself! We also have many years of experience, witnessing the desire for teens and young adults to be able to watch and create new content. So while we’ll always be adding new content for kids to play and watch and have fun with, we’ll also be adding more tools that enable them to build their own games and stuff, on the platform, from the hospital.
Q:Hey! Thanks for doing this AMA. What technology have you noticed being the most desired/requested by hospitals?
A: The biggest difference we’ve seen is moving our platform and all the entertainment provided to the cloud so every person in the hospital can access our platform. Over the years we’ve worked with caregivers and found that their biggest struggle is not being skilled in the various kinds of technology available to patients.
We have to provide simple and easy-to-use systems that allow for caregivers to focus on the individual, not the technology itself. Being able to provide these entertainment solutions on the cloud has been the biggest game changer because every person in the hospital can have access to gaming and entertainment.
If you want to, check out some info about our platform:
I would love to build a retropie system or a hacked wii for some kids in the hospital. It’s easy enough to do and transfer my library of like 8k retro games. How do i do it?
A: Your work sounds like it could really help a lot of sick kids! If there’s a hospital nearby, we recommend reaching out directly to see how they accept physical donations. You could also pick your favorite charity and have them facilitate the donation on your behalf. We could help with this as well!
Q:Why do you think technology and gaming is a critical aspect of supporting isolated and hospitalized kids?
A: When my son had cancer and a bone marrow transplant, we lived in the hospital on and off for 3 years. We had a chance to witness how important it was for him to have an outlet, distraction and a community.
After this, the charity was able to visit 250 hospitals around the world and buy the staff lunch. Each hospital passionately shared how much gaming, YouTube and livestreaming meant for the kids, their siblings and their families. It provided a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos and loneliness.
Two parts: i can’t imagine running a charity has always been easy, what are some road blocks you’ve faced trying to get this up and running? How is your son now?
A: Running a charity is very hard at times. We were very ambitious as we spent 6 years building the platform we donate to hospitals now. GameChanger is an enterprise-grade platform solution that had many challenges due to the HIPAA, COPPA and the need to protect children. There were days where I felt like giving up over the last 14 years, but something would happen every time that made me realize we needed to keep going. To be candid, it was the love of strangers that helped my son and my family when he was sick and inevitably we would help someone when they were really in trouble and that brought the challenges back into perspective and gave us all the strength to work harder.
Thank you so much for asking. Taylor is cancer-free and thriving. He helps me almost every day with the charity.
Q:Apart from your son’s, do you have any other stories/anecdotes from your experiences running GameChanger that have moved you, and in-turn stayed with you, throughout the years? Thanks for the AMA!
A: It’s our pleasure and honor to do the AMA thank you!
Yes absolutely. There was a boy, Lisandro in NYC, who had gone into hospice which meant he had less than 6 months to live. The hospital called and asked if we could give him an Xbox which we did and they sent a photo back of this beautiful young man with dreadlocks and a gorgeous smile.
The hospice nurse told us all Lisandro wants is a tutor from the NYC public school system to be able to keep teaching him. He was in a shelter with no internet and a large team of people rallied to get him internet, a tutor and virtual reality so he could see snow and Paris which he had never seen before. It was a true testament to the human spirit, and sadly a couple of weeks later Lisandro passed. He is still with us every day reminding us of how we can help people in even the smallest fashion.
Hi Jim, thanks for sharing your story. Glad to hear Taylor is cancer-free! What does a hospital need to do to be able to provide patients with the platform?
A: We have donated the platform to 6 leading pediatric hospitals and the National Institute of Health, Children’s Inn. Today is the first day that we’re really starting to share the status of the GameChanger platform. The hospitals that have this technology held evaluations and testing that took sometimes up to 18 months. Now that this groundwork has been completed and the platform is being used every single day by a couple thousand kids, we plan to donate the platform to 6 more hospitals in 2021. For other interested hospitals, we’ve started a waiting list as it takes time to properly implement and roll out the platform for each hospital or hospital network. We want to thank AWS who has donated cloud services, tablets and engineering support to help us offer GameChanger completely free of charge for the hospitals and the families.
In terms of what a hospital needs to run this system, all they would need is an internet connection. We also have donated tablets and VR rigs for the hospitals to be able to provide a device when a family doesn’t have one.
In addition to donating, what is the best way to get involved and help GameChanger charity?
A: We are just beginning to share the story of our GameChanger platform. As the hospitals start sharing their stories of how we’ve changed the game for their kids and families, please follow us and share our good deeds with your friends and community.
We’ve also worked with lots of content creators to put together fundraising streaming and events using Tiltify. You can check out our Tiltify page here: https://tiltify.com/GameChanger
Q: Thanks for the AMA Jim, and love what you’ve done. How do you think Reddit can do more to help more?
A: Reddit is such an important pillar of the online experience and we appreciate all that everyone at Reddit does to support good deeds. Their platform unites so many interesting communities around shared passions and their assistance in helping us grow what I like to call our, ‘Conspiracy of Good,’ is so important.
Later this year we would love to do another AMA and share the results of thousands of children, dozens of hospitals and the data answering the question: “Were we able to help with the psychological and social needs of sick kids?” We believe our platform can help sick kids feel better, need fewer pain meds and experience less isolation. Reddit’s support to help us democratize access to premium content for ALL sick, isolated children regardless of socioeconomic backgrounds has been great and we hope to get to grow the collaboration with the team at Reddit.
What are the biggest challenges GameChanger is facing as an organization? Cloud storage costs? Breaking through to new care facilities? Any specific areas where you could use help? Thanks for the AMA!
A: It’s our pleasure! GameChanger has created a platform with the help of some of the biggest tech and gaming companies on the planet. In essence, we are running a technology company and need to provide enterprise-grade solutions that thousands of patients now depend on. We have been asked to scale and donate to more hospitals. We face the same challenges of venture-backed tech start ups. We have never been savvy about marketing, PR or self promotion. We are always looking to develop these skills and learn from those who excel at it to be able to share our story and reach more people who want to help the kids.
My background includes being the CEO of a global deep technology, streaming media company. Innovations harnessing existing technology to help the kids is actually very easy for us and in many other instances, this would be the hardest part. We are lucky that we have the support of the tech giants who appreciate how we’re repurposing technology, and many times their technology, to make the world a little better.
Thanks everyone for joining us in today’s AMA! If you want to know more about our charity and the work we do check us out at https://gamechangercharity.org/
We’ve also had the chance to work with Omaze and Rooster Teeth to fundraise for GCC. Donors had a chance to win an awesome experience at Rooster Teeth HQ in Austin, and we are so proud of the support and help from those campaigns.