Supporting those in need, Extra Life is an online grassroots movement that has people playing games and raising funds to support Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Gamers Heroes got a chance to speak with Extra Life runner Ryan Juel (aka ddrfr33k) and asked him more about what he is doing to raise funds and get the word out about this charitable organization.
Gamers Heroes: Could you tell me a bit more about Extra Life?
Ryan Juel: Extra Life is a partnership between Children’s Miracle Network hospitals and Twitch.TV. It’s a charity event that basically goes year round, but their big emphasis is during Extra Life game day, which is usually the first weekend in November. This year it is from Friday, November 3 to Sunday, November 5.
People around the world get together to play game for the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals and clinics. Since 2008, they have raised over $30 million, and they disperse funds worldwide. Participants can elect to have their funds raised go to the general fund, or they can send it to a specific hospital if they so desire. In my case, I donate to Gillette Children’s Hospital in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Gamers Heroes: That’s great. How much are you looking to raise this year?
Ryan Juel: My goal this year is $1,000. Last year I raised $570 (I want to say)? It was just a little over $550.
Gamers Heroes: How did you get started with Extra Life?
Ryan Juel: I started out a couple of years ago. My brother was in a nasty car crash in April of 2008. He swerved to avoid a deer, hit a tree, and whacked his head on the steering wheel. He suffered what is called a traumatic brain injury and was in a medically induced coma for around three to four weeks. After he came out, he had to relearn everything – and I do mean everything. Things we take for granted were almost insurmountable for him. Gillette Children’s Hospital basically saved his life. He graduated high school a year later with a 4.0 GPA, even after his crash.
It’s like that one deleted scene from “Bruce Almighty,” where Morgan Freeman says, “Triumph comes out of adversity. To paint a pretty picture, sometimes you have to use some pretty dark colors.”
After they saved my brother’s life, it motivated me to try and find ways to give back. I realized that, over the year, if you do something outlandish and with the potential risk to your own health, people tend to take notice, especially if it’s for charity. So last year, I was like, I’ve got a lot of DDR mixes, let’s do a marathon session of Dance Dance Revolution. What could go wrong?
Gamers Heroes: That leads me to my next question. What made you want to choose the DDR series of games, versus the bevvy of other games out on the market today?
Ryan Juel: For one, DDR is a great workout. It is interval cardio training at its core when you think about it. You start getting into the higher difficulties, and you’re running in place for 90 seconds to two minutes, taking a 30 second break, and then doing it again. It’s a hard workout; it gets your heartrate up, it is strenuous, and you have to exert yourself.
And…it’s fun. It’s got good music to it, and it makes you want to get up and move. And it is entertaining. And when you get out on the other side and say “I just ran thirteen and a half miles on a dance pad,” people start to take notice.
Gamers Heroes: How have you been training to prep yourself for this marathon?
Ryan Juel: I really haven’t [laughs]. So it’s going to be really interesting; I didn’t get as much practice last year as I would have liked either, but even so, according to my FitBit, I did 25,000 steps, burnt 5,600 calories, and traveled thirteen and a half miles.
Gamers Heroes: That’s impressive. Will anybody else be joining you in this marathon?
Ryan Juel: I’ve got a group of about eight of us. There’s a group of sisters that goes by the name of “The Arcade Angels.” My fiance will be there with me, and my cousin and his wife will also be there.
This year I’ve got something kind of special. One of the local rock stations, 93X, is sending out one of their interns from the morning show to join us.
Gamers Heroes: Anything else you would like to add?
Ryan Juel: If people can donate, even $5, you can save a kid’s life. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals write off upwards of $400,000 per day in care to families that can’t afford it. If 200 people donate $5, I reach my goal. And that’s, what, a Frappuccino at Starbucks? You give up a coffee for a day to save a kid’s life – seems like a pretty fair tradeoff to me.