Kid with Dad Playing on Gaming console

Starlight Gaming: Delivering Happiness Through Video Games to Seriously Ill Kids

When a child is hospitalized, they often feel pain and become restless, bored, and anxious. They’re in an unfamiliar environment that can be really scary. Kids are away from all of their own toys, movies, and games that would typically bring them joy and comfort. That’s when the Starlight Fun CenterⓇ rolls into their hospital room and transforms the whole environment.

For Starlight kid Dymond, who suffers from a rare type of epilepsy, Starlight Gaming brought her hours of happiness at Children’s Hospital of Georgia.

“Dymond and I really appreciate the Starlight Fun Center program because she was able to focus more on having fun rather than having brain surgery,” said Starlight mom, Connie.

What is Starlight Gaming?

It’s fun on wheels! 

Our Starlight Fun Center mobile entertainment unit features a gaming console and online access to platforms like Netflix and Hulu. It can roll from the ER to a waiting room or even up to a patient’s bedside. Kids can play by themselves or enjoy gaming or watching movies and TV shows with siblings and friends.

For a hospitalized child, the Fun Center helps combat pain, boredom, and loneliness by giving them instant access to popular games like Mario Kart, Smash Bros, Madden NFL, NBA 2k13, and more. For caregivers, it’s a tool that supports recovery by providing opportunities to engage and to promote activity.

Starlight’s Long History with Gaming

Starlight made its big debut into gaming back in the late 1980s when Starlight’s founder, filmmaker Peter Samuelson, visited a child in the hospital and realized that kids had no form of entertainment except a small TV mounted way up on the wall that required a nurse to change the channel. 

So, working out of his garage, Peter set out to build the first-ever Starlight Fun Center unit, specially customized just for pediatric patients. He used a hospital lunch tray on wheels, a television, and a Nintendo Entertainment System – and Starlight Gaming was born!

Back in 1992, we created the first-ever Starlight Gaming console fully customized to deliver happiness to seriously ill children, and the Starlight Fun Center program was born! Starlight Gaming provides hospitalized kids with hours of fun and distraction through their favorite video games and streaming movies and TV shows right from the comfort of their hospital bed or in a playroom with a group of other kids. Fast forward to 2019, and more than 10 million hospitalized kids have enjoyed playing their favorite video games thanks to Starlight.

Thanks to our generous donors, 7,200 Starlight Fun Centers have delivered happiness to thousands of children at 800+ children’s hospitals and pediatric units in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. 

Leaders in Tech

Starlight has been a leader in technology and gaming since our founding in 1982. In 1996, Starlight created an online social network for sick teens, years before MySpace and Facebook even existed. The Starbright World online community helped thousands of teens build friendships and cope with illness by allowing them to be there for one another, even if they were in isolation. 

Starlight was also one of the first organizations to provide an interactive robot for use with children in the hospital setting. Partnering with Astellas USA Foundation, children now had access to VGo robots that allowed them remote control access with two-way audio-video. It gave children with injuries, illnesses, and other physical challenges or limitations the freedom to explore the hospital, play with other kids down the hall in a pediatric playroom, and even join their friends back in their school classroom. And it gave hospital staff the ability to care for patients over long distances. 

Now, Starlight is the leading virtual reality provider in hospitals with our revolutionary application of Starlight VR. Learn more about our latest program.

Gaming’s Impact on Hospitalized Kids

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, school-aged children and adolescents seek play that contributes to feelings of mastery and achievement.

That’s just one of the reasons why kids love video games so much. 

Research also shows the emotional benefits of gaming include improved moods, reduced anxiety and is an effective distraction method. 

And we’ve seen that time and time again with Starlight Gaming. 

“The Starlight Fun Center unit was used as an incentive for a particularly difficult patient who needed some positive reinforcement and bedrest,” said Rebecca Martin, certified child life specialist at UnityPoint Health Methodist. “The patient was given a sticker chart to earn playing time on the Starlight Fun Center unit. When he redeemed them for play time, his demeanor changed completely to being joyful, happy, and playful.”

Starlight Gaming also provides fun for the whole family. When siblings visit the hospital, they typically don’t have many things to do and have to wait for hours at a time so Starlight Gaming provides respite for the family, and siblings and parents can enjoy a fun game together!

Delivering Happiness through Gaming 

“When they set up the game, it allowed her to have fun for hours and it also allowed us a little bit of a break as her parents. And to see her happy again was so awesome,” said Starlight dad, Ted. 

Help us deliver happiness to pediatric patients, parents, and hospital staff through Starlight Gaming. 

Just $10 will deliver smiles to hundreds of kids.

Donate Today

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