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Chachi Plays for Kids and Pittsburgh Charities

on Thu, 02/07/2013 - 00:00

Chachi Plays for Kids
In 2003, online comic creators Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins were frustrated with the national media’s negative portrayal of video games. Their comic, Penny Arcade, was centered on game culture, and the two were determined to help erase the many misconceptions about the video game community. To further their goal, Krahulik and Holkins enlisted fellow gamers to raise money and toys for Seattle Children’s Hospital that December. The response was so overwhelming that an ongoing charity—Child’s Play—was created to not only assist Seattle but children’s hospitals all around the country.

In the fall of 2010, meanwhile, Anthony “Chachi” Walker was at a South Side coffee shop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with colleagues from his Awesomecast and Wrestling Mayhem Show videocasts to discuss ways to improve the shows, as well as other potential ideas. “One of the ones that came from my pen was Chachi Plays for Kids,” Walker remembers. “I slid it to one of the co-organizers Mike Sorg. He nodded and it was on. Truth be told, from it being written down on paper, to the first event happening—45 days tops.”

Whereas Child’s Play is a year-round fundraising drive for both toys and financial donations, Chachi Plays for Kids focusses on a 24-hour period where Anthony Walker plays video games in a non-stop marathon session. Like similar charity events, patrons make donations in support of his efforts and also have the opportunity to either compete against Walker himself or participate in one of the numerous video game tournaments that add an interactive element to the proceedings.

“After the first year, we wanted to interact more with everyone,” Anthony Walker says. “Get more people into the venue, pump up the excitement and energy. In discussing this on Twitter, it came to my attention that there were a lot of people that wanted to play me and each other in Tetris. So we added the Tetris Tournament, limited to eight people, which is the amount that wanted to play. That tournament brought in about 25 to 30 extra people to increase the energy. It was great. I modified some trophies fitted with Tetris pieces and the high score faced me in a show down.” During the third Chachi Plays for Kids, Street Fighter and Mario Kart Race were added to the event as well.

For the opportunity to compete against Anthony “Chachi” Walker, the perspective opponent must make a minimum donation to Chachi Plays for Kids in order to help the fundraiser meet its pre-determined goal each year. During its first inception, Walker and his co-organizers hoped to raise $2,400 but ended up with $2,700, which was then donated to Make Room for Kids. In 2012, meanwhile, the ToonSeum and the Father Ryan Arts Center were chosen as charities and the goal was increased to $3,000. Yet again, Chachi Plays for Kids exceeded expectations as it raised over $3,800.

The charities selected for the 2013 version of Chachi Plays for Kids, meanwhile, were organizations committed to giving back to the community through outreach programs geared towards children. The ToonSeum, for instance, is one of only three museums in the country dedicated to the comic and cartoon arts and sponsors numerous workshops throughout the year, while Art Expression Inc. conducts a variety of art-related activities for homeless children in the Pittsburgh area.

“I chose video games as a way to push the fact that video games are not bad,” Anthony Walker explains. “Associating gaming with something that is good, I think, helps a lot. People assume that video games are time wasters and not good for emotional development. In fact, a lot of times when a violent tragedy happens the first thing police look for is video games or music, when in fact video games and gaming in general helps in development by increasing problem solving skills, cognitive brain function, creativity—the same facets that participating in the arts help with.”

Chachi Plays for Kids is a group effort, and Anthony “Chachi” Walker is grateful for everyone involved, from his co-organizers—which includes Sorgatron Media—to those who simply make donations each year, to the many video game enthusiasts who literally join in and participate during the 24-hour marathon. “The event is my way to try to give back to the city I love,” Walker says. “I moved here in 2002 and it will take a lot to get me to leave.”

Based on the level of success it has already experienced, it is safe to say that Chachi Plays for Kids isn’t going away any time soon either.

Anthony Letizia

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