#Indianapolis – Oliver Wojtyna was new to parenting, and with his new responsibility came its own set of worries. Something which he didn’t anticipate was the moment when he would learn that his 5 month-old son, Liam, was developmentally delayed and the hurdles that would follow.
A team of therapists, a part of the organization First Steps, spent one hour with Liam and observed that he had low muscle tone and that his fine motor skills were two standard deviations lower than the mean – but no one could diagnosis what hindered his development.
Over the course of the next two and a half years Wojtyna and his son amassed over 300 doctors visits across the Indianapolis area to find the source of Liam’s developmental issues. In the first year the father and son traveled an estimated 33,000 miles driving to appointments.
It was a time which tested the new father and brought him denial about the circumstances that had become the foreground of his life.
Two things came into Wojtyna’s life during that period of time that he’s thankful for: a Riley Hospital for Children’s pediatric neurologist named Dr. Laurence Walsh and Extra Life.
A friend invited Wojtyna to a 24 hour fundraising event, but instead of a dance marathon or walking for a cure the philanthropy would involve play games for a day straight.
This event was Extra Life’s biggest fundraising event of the year, an event which takes place in Indianapolis on Oct. 25.
Whether it be video games, board games or card games, all games are welcome because one uniform cause binds all gaming together on this day – gaming to raise money to help kids with medical needs.
A cause which has become important in Wojtyna’s life.
“Whether you’re a parent that has never been to Riley because your child is healthy or you’re a gamer that just enjoys to play games, Extra Life is a great cause to be a part of,” Wojtyna head of public relations for the Extra Life Indianapolis Guild said. “It’s a way to help local children and be a part of something bigger than yourself through an activity which lends itself to distracting ourselves from day to day problems – if only for little bit.”
Extra Life is an organization, founded in 2008, which has one goal – raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals by means of playing games.
Though it’s an international organization, Extra Life facilitates a way for participates in these marathons to raise money for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.
Indiana only has one Children’s Miracle Network Hospital: Indianapolis’ Riley Hospital for Children.
Riley Hospital for Children and Liam’s Diagnosis
Riley Hospital for Children is an important part of the Indianapolis community, it’s a hospital which has given Wojtyna and others like him the answers and treatments they’ve been searching for.
Three years without a diagnosis, Wojtyna found the answer to the mystery of Liam’s developmental issues, all it took was a non-routine blood test ordered by Dr. Walsh – a pediatric neurologist at Riley.
A genetic disorder called ARX duplication was the diagnosis and the reason why Liam had missed developmental milestones. Dr. Walsh prescribed Liam ABA therapy which is a treatment that has been successful for people with autism and has been effective for Liam.
“Since ABA therapy I’ve seen Liam grow tremendously,” Wojtyna said. “It was like night and day, once we knew what was wrong we knew exactly how to properly treat Liam. One test, two doctors appointments with Dr. Walsh and we had our answer after three years of searching – it makes you wonder how the world works.”
“For me, Extra Life is my way to give back to Riley for all things they’ve done for us and to help children and families still seeking answers,” Wojtyna said.
Jason Mueller, director of regional communications for Riley Children’s Foundation, views the Extra Life cause as a great way for people take part in a gaming event which helps children’s hospitals.
It’s a cause which Riley is grateful to benefit from.
“The Indianapolis Guild of Extra Life has taken a great leadership role to help raise as much funds as possible and spread awareness about Oct. 25 which is Extra Life Day internationally,” Mueller said. “We encourage people to sign up under Riley Hospital for Children to support Indiana’s only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital affiliate.”
The Origins Which Spawned Extra Life
The origins of Extra Life date back to a time when a girl named Victoria Enmon formed a friendship with a radio DJ named Jeromy Adams.
Adams would tell her she needed to play video games which set him on a mission to provide her with some games. After Enmon lost her battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Adams wanted to find a way to give back to the hospital which treated her.
It was an idea that would spawn Extra Life and a cause which would allow people to give to children’s hospitals through games. To date the organization has raised over $10 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Since 2008, one way Extra Life has grown is by partnering with prominent groups in the gaming industry such as Microsoft, PlayStation, Twitch and Wizards of the Coast. It’s through partnerships with groups like these and spreading awareness about the Extra Life’s cause that the organization hopes to expand the number of hospitals and children which it can help.
According to Michael Kinney, a manager at Extra Life, one important way the organization hopes to expand is by opening up 50 additional “guilds.” The guilds are local affiliates of Extra Life which are in charge of raising awareness and fundraising for their Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.
“Some people are lucky enough to have never had to step foot in a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital and they’re gaming for completely different reasons than someone who has,” Kinney said. “I’ve never been in one and my family hasn’t had to either, but I’m a part of this organization because I believe that Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals should have the ability to treat every child and every family with the top care and technology regardless of their ability to pay.”
“It’s a right that everyone should have and that’s why I do Extra Life,” Kinney said.
Kinney himself had not been much of a gamer before becoming a part of Extra Life, but now that he has joined the cause he views it as a great way to raise money for children regardless of how passionate you’re about gaming.
“No matter where you live you can participate in Extra Life and benefit a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital near you,” Kinney said. “Whatever funds you raise just know it’s going to stay local and help kids a part of that community.”
For more information about Extra Life and how to sign up to raise money for a local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital head to www.extra-life.org.
The Indianapolis portion of the Extra Life 2014 will take place at the Indianapolis eBash on Oct. 25 at 9 a.m. The event cost $25 which is money that will go towards Extra Life’s cause. For more information click here.
For more information about the Extra Life Indianapolis Guild and ways to be a part of it head to the website here.