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Gamers kick off weekend marathons for Extra Life charity

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Gamers have proven their generosity countless times, but it's rare they can help a charity by simply doing what they love most: playing video games.

Starting at 8:00 am on Saturday, October 20, nearly 15,000 people will do just that for Extra Life, a gaming marathon that supports the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

The idea's fairly straightforward, if a little tiring. Gamers fire up their consoles (or pull out their board games) and play for 24 hours, encouraging their friends and family to support them, with all proceeds going toward the CMN Hospital in their area.

The charity's genesis began in 2008, when it was conceived as a way to honor a young girl named Victoria Enmon stricken with actute lymphoblastic leukemia. Enmon sadly lost her fight, but Extra Life founder Jeromy Adams and his partners decided to honor her memory with a marathon play session, asking sponsors to pay for each hour they played. They raised $115,000 in the process.

The numbers kept growing. In 2009, Extra Life raised $170,000. A year later, the number hit $451,000.

Last year, the charity really broke through, raising $1.1 million for 175 children's hospitals around the world. This year, it's hoping to top that number.

"Pretty much every year the number has doubled or tripled, and I'm not ready for that trend to end," says Adams. "I'm hoping to hit $2 million."

While the idea is for gamers to pull together during the same period, one of the nice loopholes about Extra Life is it's not limited to a single day. Players who aren't able to sustain a 24-hour gaming stretch can break it up into shifts. Donations will remain open until the holidays, most likely, according to the charity.

"The reason it has grown is its the most inclusive thing I've seen in fundraising," says Adams. "We've targeted the 20th, because you need to center on something, but you can do it when it's convenient for you. … That goes against what you're supposed to do when fundraising, because people say you're supposed to be very targeted."

The fundraising can come from both individuals or teams, though the charity has captured the attention of several major gaming studios as well. Earlier this month, for example, Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment put together a team that has already raised over $18,000 -- and it's not even the top fundraising group. Reddit readers make up the largest team with over 800 members participating.

"Being a dad, I think it definitely puts this whole event into perspective," says Ubisoft's Zack Cooper, who participated last year but has to sit this year out since he has a newborn. "Knowing that one day my little girl could require expert care at one of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, it has become that much more of a priority to do my part to ensure these facilities have whatever they need to get the job done."

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