ESA Foundation

’Tis the Season… to Leverage Video Games

As the holidays approach, consider donating to a nonprofit organization that enlists video games as a tool for improving the lives of children.
By Rich Shea
December 3, 2019
An employee from Gamers Outreach, a nonprofit that provides pediatric hospitals with video games, plays a game with a young patient.

With millions of people in the United States playing video games, it may seem as if those games serve just one purpose — to entertain. But the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Foundation knows better. Videos games are often used by nonprofits and schools to support kids facing adversity or in need of an educational boost, which is what the foundation itself specializes in.

And with the holidays — otherwise known as the season of giving — on the way, we’d like to highlight three nonprofits we support and believe are worthy of your attention. Video games not only have the power to entertain, but to better the lives of thousands, if not millions, of young people. So, as you’re pondering charitable giving, please consider these organizations:

After School All Stars

(ASAS), as its name indicates, provides mostly economically disadvantaged middle school students with opportunities outside of class — for instance, helping them to develop skills and behaviors needed to succeed in school, career and life in general. Among ASAS’s programs are career readiness and exploration in the science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) fields, including video game development. We’ve been proud to award ASAS grants over the past couple of years to support its video game design curriculum, “Minecraft: Education Edition,” and its partnership with 9 Dots, a nonprofit providing K-6 students with computer science training.

Gamers Outreach

Gamers Outreach provides seriously ill children in hospitals with video games and consoles to ease the burden of their stays. Founder Zach Wigal launched the nonprofit when he was in high school, hosting game tournaments supporting local charities. One was a hospital where he and his friends noticed the kids there were longing for both socialization and a distraction from discomfort. So they designed what later became known as the “GO Kart,” or Gamers Outreach Kart, enabling a cache of fun to move from room to room. Ten-plus years later, the organization serves thousands of kids and families each year in pediatric hospitals nationwide. Zach’s story is so impressive, he was recently included among the top 10 CNN Heroes for 2019.


Girlstart serves roughly 30,000 girls across the country by using innovative, nationally recognized and informal (read, “fun”) educational programs to spike girls’ interest in the range of STEAM subjects. This emphasis is critically needed to help resolve the gender gap in the STEAM workforce. Girlstart provides a year-round, intensive suite of programs for K-12 girls and fosters skills development, an understanding of STEAM as a means to solving big problems and an interest in STEAM electives, majors, and careers. So, how has the ESA Foundation helped? Most recently, we helped Girlstart expand its free summer-camp program, where girls are encouraged to participate in STEAM activities, focusing specifically on computer science and video game design. Girl power!
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