Starlight Children’s Foundation and 2K Unleash the Power of Play to Improve the Well-Being of Patients at UCSF Benioff

Starlight and 2K bridge the worlds of gaming and healing to deliver happiness to kids hospitalized during the holiday season.

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 28, 2023 – Spending the holidays in a hospital can be a challenging experience for children and their families. White ceiling lights and tiles replace what should be the warm glow of twinkling holiday lights. Instead of gathering around a cozy fire, families find themselves gathered in a small room by their children’s bedside.

Aligned with missions to improve the well-being of children, 2K, the Novato-based video game publisher, recently teamed up with the nonprofit Starlight Children’s Foundation to bring the power of gaming to patients at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco to help kids feel a little more joy during the holiday season.

Adam Garone, CEO of Starlight Children’s Foundation, said, “Starlight Children’s Foundation is all about transforming moments in the hospital for kids. It’s about bringing the power of play, lifting their spirits and normalizing what it’s like to be in the hospital.”

With a mission to deliver happiness to hospitalized kids and their families, Starlight Children’s Foundation aims to transform hospital experiences positively through essential programs, including Starlight Gaming, that offer entertainment, escape and a sense of normalcy to children coping with medical challenges, helping make their journey toward recovery and healing a little brighter.

As part of its commitment to creating positive impacts beyond the gaming industry and enhancing the lives of children in need, 2K generously funded five Starlight Gaming products – one gaming station and three handhelds to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco and one gaming station to the Oakland campus.

“For years, Starlight has been helping us with all kinds of resources and now, we’re talking about gaming,” said Michael Towne, child life services manager at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

Lauren Franklin, child life services liaison at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, said, “Many families don’t have money to buy consoles. So to have a system that comes preloaded with games that can go around to patient rooms is just a dream and we’re so thankful.”

Healthcare providers and child life specialists play an essential role in providing educational and emotional support, positive distraction and play to help children and their families manage the stress of hospitalization, especially during the holidays. Bringing the holiday comfort and joy through the gift of play can make a difference in a patient’s mental well-being.

The partnership exemplifies the collective work of 2K and Starlight in bringing joy, play and hope to children at a time when they need it most. Executives from 2K – including head of lifestyle and content marketing, Ronnie Singh, better known as Ronnie 2K accompanied by Christine Soldner, Sr. director of partnership at Starlight Children’s Foundation, visited UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco to present the gaming stations and handheld to the child life team and engage with young patients.

Soldner said, “We’re incredibly grateful to 2K for funding these gaming stations at UCSF Benioff that transform hospital stays for children coping with illnesses and injuries. We’re pleased to be here with 2K to see first-hand how the power of play, harnessed through video games, brings kids joy and positively impacts their well-being.”

Garone said, “We’ve got 2K that generously donated a number of gaming stations and Ronnie 2K playing on those gaming stations with a bunch of kids having fun and doing what kids love.”

Helping unleash the power of play, Ronnie 2K participated in gaming sessions with patients, providing them with a positive distraction and some moments of joy despite their circumstances. Temporarily setting aside the challenges of medical procedures, treatments, and conditions, patients enjoyed meeting Ronnie 2K and some play time, an essential part of childhood.

Masinafouieremia Tusiga, the mother of Fred, a patient at UCSF Benioff, said, “These [games] help children who are here in the hospital. They feel sick, they feel weak, they feel pain. They really enjoy [playing games].”

“Getting to hang out with Fred was really the highlight of my day. Such a big 2K fan, Lakers fan and Lebron fan; we got to talk about basketball. I know it was just a few hours, but I know it was meaningful to him,” Singh said. “Getting to do that with video games is really what this platform is about. It’s important and great that gaming means so much to kids, that it can change their lives.”

“To be able to partner with Starlight and UCSF Benioff and brighten the days of these families is what it’s all about. Both video games as a platform and 2K as a brand, we are committed to being a force of good within our community,” Singh added.

Starlight’s vital programs are donor-funded and offered free of charge to pediatric facilities that are part of the nonprofit’s nationwide healthcare network. Child life teams at hospitals utilize Starlight programs for play, distraction therapy, and emotional support to help children feel more comfortable and engaged during their medical journey.