Episode 9

Zach Wigal, CNN Hero & Gamer, Giving Back


Zach Wigal is the founder of Gamers Outreach, a charity organization that provides children with recreation in the form of video games. They supply an estimated 2 million play sessions to children in more than 200 hospitals across the country and host the largest LAN party in America: Gamers for Giving. Zach’s been recognized on the Forbes 30 under 30 and has been featured on outlets such as CNN. He’s here today to share his story and discuss how he overcame constant adversity to provide care and support to those who need it most. 

The goal of Zach’s organization is to ease the struggle of an extended visit to the hospital.

When you’re in the hospital, clearly the first priority is to get OUT of the hospital. Things like treatments, research, and similar activities can overshadow the experience you have during your stay. The goal of Zach’s organization is to ease the struggle of an extended visit to the hospital. His focus is on quality of life. It got started while Zach was in high school. He and his friends wanted to host a video game tournament. His efforts were shut down by a resource officer who felt that games were corrupting the minds of America’s youth. Frustrated by this sentiment, Zach created a charity fundraiser, Gamers for Giving. From there, Zach was connected with people at local hospitals. The rest is history. Zach always knew he would be in the gaming industry, but he never thought he would grow to the success he has now. When he first got started, he didn’t have the vision of the impact his organization would have. At a certain point, this work started leaking into other aspects of his life. Eventually, he decided to pursue it full-force. 

A big aspect of gaming is the interaction, both with other people and with the world itself. Now that we are all in a state of quarantine, the relationships built online can be reinforced through video games. Zach is in the business of recreation, entertainment, and engagement.

“Videogames can be a conduit for communication between young people and adults.” – Zach Wigal, CNN Hero

When times of doubt hit, he reminded himself of the two things that make people quit: extreme failure and extreme success.

Zach certainly took a different path from many of his peers. A major struggle he faced was comparing his progress and his standing to those around him. When times of doubt hit, he reminded himself of the two things that make people quit: extreme failure and extreme success. Because he was so young, his perspective differed from some people he was working with. At one point, they decided to part ways. At the time, it felt like the bottom had fallen out. Zach sat down and concluded that he needed to be sure he was doing this to make a difference for kids in hospitals. It isn’t the Zach show, he wasn’t trying to improve the public outlook of him or gamers. Even in a smaller capacity, he knew this work was important. With that in mind, he started over and just kept going. The growth and development he embraced kept him above water in difficult times.

OTHER TOP QUOTES FROM THIS EPISODE
  • “The only difference between those who are successful and those who aren’t is how you deal with failure.”
  • “If you can make a difference in a little way, it’s still worthwhile.”
Connect with Zach Wigal

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