Yes, 5,000. But it's not what you can think of.
"We noticed that many of the video games (in the hospitals) were stuck in playrooms," said Wigal, 29. "And because of that, there was a whole section of the hospital population that was restricted, regardless of whether they had access to their bedding environment ".
These 5,000 games eventually left the basement of their parents and some were screened in simple, portable videogame carts that Wigal's foundation helped design and deliver to more than one million children a year.
These "GOKarts" – equipped with a game console and a series of video games – are transferred to a patient's room and allow children to be a "source of fun and relief during … stressful and difficult times," Wigal said.
"We've seen the stress go down, prescription pain medications are less used," Gabanyicz said.
Wigal's inspiration for his charity came from his love of gambling as a teenager – who took an interesting turn during the junior high school year.
He has written more than 300 fellow students to participate in a Halo 2 tournament at the high school cafeteria. Hired the space with the permission of the school. He spent months organizing him.
"This event ceased closing two days before it was supposed to happen by a policeman who believed games like Halo were, in his words, distorting the minds of America's youth," said Wigal. "Everybody who was registered with the video game tournament was a bit upset."
The cancellation caused an idea: Wigal wanted to show principles that players were not all bad or lazy children – and they could do something good with their gaming skills.
The event continued every year, and as its popularity increased, the Wigal team branched out and began working with local hospitals. In 2009, Wigal began working with the Children's Hospital of C.S. Mott and his team designed his portable GOKarts.
"We work with children who can not go to the soccer field and of course they can not join, but I do not feel they should lose the values that are transmitted through traditional activities," Wigal said.
Allie Torgan of CNN spoke to Wigal about his work. Below is a version of their conversation.
CNN: As a teenager, your parents' home was zero for charitable businesses. What was the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak?
Zach Wigal: We had taken my parents' basement with money for the Gamers Outreach. It had become this gambling equipment reception area donated to our organization for use in the hospital environment. There was a time I had, I'm not kidding you, more than 5,000 video games in my parents' basement.
In fact, we had someone to donate 900 Xboxes that were just in a warehouse. Fortunately my parents just had the patience to be ok with all that until the semi-truck wanted to show up and that was the day it was like: "It's not going to go to the basement for all that equipment." That was the day that we were pulling out of my parents' house! Now we have a warehouse here in Michigan.
CNN: Your GOKarts signing service now serves more than one million children annually in 50 hospitals. Why this model?
Wigal: With volunteering and visiting hospitals, we noticed that it was difficult to bring technology into these environments. We noticed that many of the video games were stuck in gaming rooms. And because of this, there was an entire section of the hospital population that was confined to anything that had access to the bedside environment if they could not leave their rooms.
Sometimes you have families that can not afford the technology or have no things they can bring from home for their children. It is important that technology and hardware exist in the hospital environment to provide some access to entertainment to patients who may not be able to do things outside their room.
CNN: What advice do you have for parents of patients who may be struggling with screen time?
Wigal: Even if you are not a fan of gaming or the screen or you feel it can be excessive, technology is a widespread part of our lives. I mean, even my mom has Angry Birds installed on her cell phone at this point.
What is important is to let us know the right values for how this technology plays a role in our lives, how we balance technology with being healthy as a person, and that we care for your mental health, attend school, find a career. These are all things that can be totally present.
We think about the work we are doing as an opportunity to improve a patient's quality of life. I come to provide entertainment in hospital environments. We help children find a source of fun and relief at times where being in the hospital can be really stressful and difficult.
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