When you go to a convention, you’re almost always thinking about what kind of free swag you can pick up or how many games you can play, and even how much geek related merch you can buy. But next time you head out to a convention, I want you to do something. Instead of looking for free shirts, while you’re walking the expo hall floor, look for the charities and volunteer organizations.
If you’ve listened to our Missions that Matter episodes, you know how much spreading the word about charities using pop culture to do good means to us as a podcast. During PAX South, I was noticed that there were more charitable and non-profit organizations than I had seen at other conventions. So, in case you missed it, here are some of the charities that I personally talked to during the convention.
We covered Stack Up in a Missions that Matters episode here, But in the time since that episode, the veteran’s charity has grown even larger and started new program for veterans focused on mental wellness. If you’re unfamiliar with Stack-Up, it’s a charity for veterans, run by veterans. It is centered around helping service members through the power of gaming. They’re most well-known for their supply crates (care-packages sent to active duty service members with gaming consoles, games, and table tops) and Air Assault program (where they pick deserving veterans and pays for them to attend life-changing video game and geek culture events). In addition to this, the organization has announced their new program: STOP.
STOP, the Stack Up Overwatch Program, “consists of veteran and civilian volunteers called the STOP Squad who will be available 24/7/365. They will provide members of the Stack Up community with a variety of resources that promote mental health and suicide prevention, as well as provide a shoulder to lean on should they need someone to talk to.” They have also partnered with PsychArmor Institute to train the volunteers involved (you can read more about STOP here). The organization also hosted a panel on day 2 of the convention, “War Stories: Veterans and Gaming,” where veterans spoke on their experiences utilizing games for self-care and answered questions from the audience. In the Q&A, I found that the information they gave to spouses/significant others of veterans on how to help their veterans was extremely important. They also brought in a large crowd and the founder of the organization, Stephen Mechuga, and the other panelists stayed after until every question that was asked.
1Up on Cancer
We covered 1Up on Cancer in our Missions that Matters series here, but if you haven’t heard of them, their goal is straight to the point: Help adults with cancer by paying their medical bills. 1Up on Cancer was founded in honor of the loss of a friend and his battle with cancer. The organization used the power of gaming to raise money for adults with cancer by streaming and fundraising at conventions and other events. They were able to raise over $2000 towards medical bills at this year’s PAX South. Their booth and raffle was sponsored by the developer Tiny Build and THE gaming chair brand, DXRacer. In the corner, next to the table tops and LAN section, we had little time to talk with our friends Christina (President and CEO) and Christopher (Secretary and Program Manager) Haslage because of all the congoers who consistently stopped by the booth. They held a raffle where they gave away 1Up on Cancer merch, Tiny Build games, figurines, and games, and DXRacer swag bag, with a grand prize being a DXRacer gaming chair.
Take This is an organization that was founded to show those in the gaming community that there is help for mental health issues and that those struggling with depression aren’t alone. As someone with an anxiety disorder, seeing their slogan, “It’s OK to not be OK!” was something that I found powerful.
In their “booth of hope,” located in the diversity Lounge, the organization was handing out self care quest cards. All of which had different self care tasks. Some were as simple as drink water and others worked on forming a community by talking with someone new. These quests worked as a reminder to care for yourself and not get lost in the convention. In addition to their booth, they also funded the AFK lounge, “the most boring room at the con by design.” This room is a silent self-care room at PAX conventions that is a get away for overwhelmed con-goers. It’s a place to unplug and recuperate from the con without having to go home. This room is vital for people to calm themselves at the con instead of choosing to leaving or hunting for a quiet place. As explained in the Take This panel, a $3 Patreon subscriptions help fund the AFK room for 1 person. Take This also had two panels over the weekend: “Self Care in Streaming” and “It’s Dangerous to go Alone: The Take This Panel.” Both of which were moments of sharing stories and techniques for mental wellness, and worked as a reminder, for me at least, that I need to take care of myself and that my issues with anxiety don’t single me out from the crowd and don’t make me less worthy of community experiences. So take some steps and join their community in advocating and educating mental wellness.
Play to Beat Brain Cancer
This event was Play to Beat Brain Cancer’s (P2BBC) first PAX. I was walking through the aisles of the expo hall floor when I saw a paradise of Dungeons & Dragons accessories. I stopped and talked with Steve Miller, the Founder/President, and Executive Director of P2BBC. I heard their story and was extremely moved. As a family-run non-profit, they aim to raise money in order to pay for the medical expenses of those with brain cancer who can not afford medicine or other essential medical care. They also contribute to cancer research at places like KU Med. Located in Kansas, the organization was formed after the loss of Lisa Clipsham, Steve’s daughter, to brain cancer. In her honor, the organization lives up to their name by playing the games that the patients enjoy, including but is not limited to table tops, video games, online games, RPGs, puzzles, and all types of sports, in order to help patients beat brain cancer and find a cure.
For more information on Play to Beat Brain Cancer, follow the links below:
TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools)
We’re moving into a generation where computer science (CS) knowledge is a necessity, but unfortunately there are still high schools without no CS classes. TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools), supported by Microsoft Philanthropies, is a volunteer organization that aims to help high schools in the US build and grow sustainable CS programs. They do so by pairing CS professionals from across the tech industry with classroom teachers in order to team-teach CS to students while the teachers are taught as well. By bringing in industry professionals, TEALS helps inspire students to continue CS beyond high schools and builds programs for students to keep learning after the volunteers leave. If you have a school district you would like to nominate or would like to volunteer, head on over to their website.
The charities and organizations I have mentioned above are only some of those who attended PAX South 2018, specifically they are organizations I spoke with at length about their missions. Others there included: The Able Gamers Charity, Child’s Play, and other organizations like Houston Gaymers and Geeks OUT! most of which were located in the diversity lounge (a space for those who are under-represented to be celebrated and safe).
So next time you head to a convention, stop by the charities. At PAX South, giving through gaming was on display throughout the convention. Just think of how many people you can connect with and help through your fandom or hobby. Help people by doing what you love. Make sure to follow each of these organizations on their social media accounts in order to stay up to date with their activities and find out how you can become involved.
If you have a charity you would like us to cover in Missions that Matter, leave us a comment or email us at email@example.com.
For our full PAX South 2018 Convention Recap, click here.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.