Imagine being confined to a bed for days on end. You cannot venture outside, you lack the freedom to really move about, and you’re stuck in a room that’s made to look generic and bland. As if that wasn’t bad enough, you’re here because you’re sick—and you’re only a kid.
“You know, younger kids who are in hospitals, they worry,” said Ben Snow, a seventh grader at Pierson Middle School. Though he doesn’t know from first-hand experience, he and his older brother Max, a sophomore, take this image to heart. Last year, they founded the Hamptons chapter of a non-profit organization called Game Knights, which collects pre-owned DVDs, video games and electronic devices to donate to local hospitals to give to children when they’re sick. “These video game consoles distract you so you won’t really think about your condition,” Ben continued.
The idea was born from a good friend of Max’s, a high school student in Manhattan who realized the benefits of hand-held electronics while briefly hospitalized one summer. “He was sitting in the hospital with literally nothing to do,” Max said. He continued to explain that then his friend’s parents brought him an Xbox to use while he was confined to his hospital room, and it proved to be a much-needed distraction. He knew not every patient had such a luxury, so upon leaving the hospital Max’s friend donated the game system and made it his mission to continue with such donations.
Admiring their friends’ work and eager to help make a difference, Max and Ben decided last spring to take up the mantle and form Game Knights Hamptons. Centered here in Sag Harbor, the boys said they already have about 10 members and are set to make their first donation to the children’s wing of the Stony Brook Medical Center next Thursday, November 10.
“I knew something was missing from our school,” Max said. “We collect food and toys around the holidays, but besides that [Pierson] doesn’t have a real organized charity.”
Most of last year, Max and Ben tried to make Game Knights more of a prominent fixture on campus. The boys had to pitch the idea to administrators at Pierson Middle/High School and gain approval before soliciting donations and volunteers who could use the charity as a viable option for completing service hours.
“I don’t think you would find a person that would denounce a charity that benefits sick people; [the administrators] were happy about it,” Max said. “But that doesn’t mean that right then and there it was accepted and automatically mainstream.” When asked how much time the boys spent trying to get the program to where it is now—poised to make its first drop-off—Max stared straight ahead and with a straight face he didn’t pause or hesitate before replying: “Oodles.”
After discussions with administrators, and after giving a presentation to a collection of middle schoolers and their parents, Max and Ben were ultimately allowed to set-up a drop-box inside the school where students can now donate unwanted DVDs and video games. (There is also a drop-box at the .)
Their donation next week will include roughly 40 DVDs and video games, along with 10 brand new, portable DVD players and an Xbox 360, which were given to the group by the father of one of Game Knight’s founding members. Plus, with proceeds from a bake sale the boys held at Pierson last year, in addition to money donated by two Sag Harbor parents, the Game Knights Hamptons has purchased a new iPad II to add to the mix.
“This is an amazing donation because it’s our first endeavor,” said Gay Snow, the boys’ mother. She has helped the boys organize the charity and will drive them to the hospital next Thursday to deliver their gift.
It’s somewhat ironic, she continued, because neither Max nor Ben actually play video games. “They’re very addictive in nature,” she confirmed. In fact, the Snow household has been “unplugged” for at least two years’ running, Gay noted. “They’re ok every once in a while,” she continued. “But, in this instance, when you’re in a setting when you’re convalescing, they’re actually therapeutic.”