If you spend hours gaming – whether video, card, board, or otherwise – wouldn’t it be nice if you could also do some good at the same time? Gaming charity Extra Life, and its local Kansas City Guild, let you do just that.
One of the first emails I got on my Contact Page was from Lora Williams, sharing information about gaming charity Extra Life, so now I’m sharing that information with you! Be sure to read to the end to find out how you can help local kids in need!
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Lora Williams and I am the President of the Extra Life Kansas City Guild!
When did you get into gaming and what do you love about it?
I’ve dabbled in tabletop RPGs, card games, video games, and board games, and I have found I love board gaming the best. While I’m addicted to Fallout 4 currently, most of my gatherings with friends involve some kind of board or card gaming. It’s a cheap (well, depending on the game) activity to do with friends, both near and far. Plus, it’s something we have in common and can discuss even when not gaming.
What do I love about gaming? It’s definitely the connectivity of it, but also, especially with video games, the ability to plunge into another world, explore it, and get out of your normal life routine. I also love the test of my intelligence, which is why I LOVE strategy board games. I love trying to solve the problems my competitors cause me and I also love winning….who doesn’t?
Tell us about Extra Life and the Extra Life Kansas City Guild.
Extra Life is a 24-hour gaming charity marathon that raises money for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals all over North America. It is similar to a 5k, where participants create a page, have a fundraising goal, and ask people to donate to their cause. But instead of running, we play games for 24 hours: board games, video games, tabletop RPGs, LARPing, or even Candy Crush…it’s all about what you want to do!
Extra Life was founded in 2008 by a gentleman in Texas who wanted to have a gaming charity marathon in memory of his friend Tori, who lost her life to cancer as a teenager. Since then, it has expanded and gamers all over North America raise money for their local Children’s Miracle Network hospital. All money raised by Extra Lifers goes directly to the hospital they choose. Every kid that enters a CMN hospital gets treated, regardless of their ability to pay. Plus, CMN hospitals have specialized programs and doctors for a variety of conditions; more so than traditional hospitals…and that’s all thanks to donations made through programs like Extra Life.
In 2014, Extra Life national rolled out the Guild program in a select number of cities, including Kansas City. The Extra Life Kansas City Guild, and Guilds like it across the country, take our participation in Extra Life beyond fundraising and playing games; we also recruit at local events to raise awareness for Extra Life and sign up more participants. We’ve attended many conventions and festivals in Kansas City, as well as done much social media and blog outreach to sign up as many Kansas City gamers as we can for the Extra Life gaming charity. It’s the best way for gamers to give back doing what they love: gaming.
In Kansas City, our local CMN hospital is KU Medical Center Pediatrics. Myself and anyone who selects KU Med as their hospital will raise money to help LOCAL kids fight anything from a broken bone to an amputation to cancer to a chronic condition.
What made you want to join the KC organization?
As a kid, I was very healthy. However, my mother battled (and still does) many debilitating issues, which taught me at a young age how lucky I am to be healthy. When I heard about Extra Life, I knew I had to do something to help local kids so they didn’t have to end up like my mom did, sick their whole life. I had been looking for a charitable outlet in my life for a while, and when I found out about Extra Life, I knew it was a perfect fit.
Tell us about the Extra Life marathons.
The official game day for Extra Life is the first Saturday in November. The coolest thing about Extra Life, though, is that there is no ONE event for it and there is no ONE place you have to go. Most participants do their marathons from the comfort of their homes with friends locally or online. Many people stream their gaming, but it is not a requirement. Not everyone can do that first Saturday, so some people do it on a different day…or split it up into multiple days. It’s whatever you want to commit yourself to.
For me, the past two years I’ve just had a party at my house and invited friends over to play games with me and keep me awake for 24 hours. We play a variety of games.
Though there is no official single Extra Life event, many local game stores stay open for 24 hours for game day to allow a safe place for people to game. There are often little LANs all over Kansas City as well, where gaming groups play together. As a Guild, we are not allowed to and have not done an official event for Extra Life, though many of us are friends and do our marathons together. That’s the best part about Extra Life: they make it as easy as possible to sign up and make the event your own.
Tell us about a memorable moment at one of the marathons.
At my first marathon, eight of us sat down and played a very, very long board game. We spent about eight hours playing Arkham Horror ‑ about three hours of figuring out how to play it, and five hours of playing it incorrectly.
What has been the response to what your organization offers? What local KC gaming groups are involved?
The response to Extra Life on a national and a local level has been huge. Nationally, Extra Life has huge partners such as Twitch, Rooster Teeth, and all the major gaming console players. Locally, KU Medical Center has a partnership with Microsoft and we often hold meetings at the Microsoft Store in Oak Park Mall.
As for local gaming groups, the Guild has a lot of friends and we’ve gotten quite a few groups and stores involved. Archetype Gaming is basically what put Kansas City on the map for Extra Life; they are a huge part of what qualified us for Guild status from corporate. Recently, we’ve created a relationship with KCGameOn, and they have already created an Extra Life team.
Since the Guild has been created, we’ve made friends with many stores, such as Tabletop Game and Hobby, Game Cafe, Elite Comics, and the Geekery. Many of these places have not only let us have meetings there, but they have allowed us to recruit at their events. Some have even hosted Extra Life events in years past. We also have a close relationship with the Gamer’s Haven Library. They’ve been amazing to us. We also have relationships with countless cons in the area as well.
Outside of direct Guild contacts, there are many gaming groups who participate in Extra Life, many of which I am not aware of, such as some League groups, as well as college gaming groups and small friend groups. That’s the unique and wonderful thing about Extra Life: you can make it as big as you want it…or just keep it small. It’s about gamers giving back however they are able. Not everyone wants to go to a huge LAN for 24 hours, but the option is always there!
How can someone get involved with your organization?
The simplest way to get involved is to just participate in the gaming charity marathon and raise some money! You can sign up at extra-life.org. You can create a team, join a team, or not join a team. Kansas City participants should select “KS-KU Medical Center” as their hospital (us Missourians need this reminder). You can customize your team and individual page, send out social media posts and emails, set a fundraising goal, track donations, and more from the extra-life.org website. There is also an online forum where you can talk to other participants and get tricks and tips.
If you’re looking to do more, you can join the Extra Life Kansas City Guild and see about recruiting at events with us. You can post on our board in the forums or send me a message on the community forums. My name is “MedievalMelody.” Or, you can email me at williamsloram[at]yahoo[dot]com and request some information.
What future plans lay ahead for your organization?
Our goal for this year is to have 1,000 people register for Extra Life in Kansas City, which would equate to around $100,000 raised for KU Medical Center. Every two participants raise around $200, so we are hoping by increasing our appearance at events and outreach through websites such as this, we can hit our goal…and then next year, recruit even more! Kansas City has a huge gaming/nerd culture and as a Guild and a gaming charity, we want to become a part of that community.
Where can someone find more information about Extra Life and Extra Life KC?
- Main Website: extra-life.org
- Guild page: https://community.extra-life.org/kansascity
- Main Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ExtraLife4Kids
- KC Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ExtraLifeKC/
- Main Twitter: https://twitter.com/ExtraLife4Kids
- KC Twitter: https://twitter.com/extralifekc
EDITOR’S NOTE: Extra Life often has booths at local events, such as Planet Comicon, often manned by Lori. Be sure to look for them!