How to Change a Life with $5

DESERT BUS 2019

It’s that time of year again, Desert Bus for Hope. As Halloween ends, the last few candy wrappers are tidied up, the evidence destroyed. The weather gets colder, Starbucks starts pouring beverages in red cups and I find myself on an island in Canada. Victoria, British Columbia to be exact.

Dance Party
Photo by Andrew Ferguson

Almost every year, for the past eight years, I have participated in the Desert Bus for Hope online charity event. This is an annual event that raises funds for Child’s Play Charity, through an online, live-streaming, video game marathon. That’s the cleanest way to explain it, but it is so much more.

These days the internet is not known for its safe spaces, kind voices and supportive environments, but these exist on Desert Bus for Hope. Live-streaming each year on Twitch, the viewers can watch, donate and chat all through the website. If you join the chat you will see thousands of voices with dozens of moderators talking, laughing, sharing pictures and memes. This is a show that can interact with the audience and bring their voice into the room. “The Chat” has become its own character, responding to questions and offering challenges. Depending on the topic, they join in and share their stories.

Photo by Kolin Toney

Child’s Play Charity raises funds to provide games, consoles, toys and grants to children’s hospitals and domestic shelters. They help children and families in trauma, in pain, and in need of support. This is an excellent cause and to truly understand why this means so much to me, I need to tell you my story.

On the week that I turned 11 years old, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Cancer. I was just a kid and did not understand what that truly meant. I was told I would lose my hair, that I may get sick and miss school, that I would probably get tired and lose my appetite. But I wasn’t told how much pain I would feel. How it wasn’t losing my hair that would be difficult, but the way other kids at school would treat me because I did not have any. The pain and discomfort was bad, but the loneliness and the feeling of ‘other’ was excruciating. I was just a kid and just wanted to be a kid.

Radiation Treatment and My School Photo

I spent a lot of time at the hospital. During Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Eve I was sick in the hospital, in isolation. It was during one of these stays that a nurse rolled in a TV and SNES (Super Nintendo). The only game available was Super Mario Bros, but that’s all I needed. Once I figured out how to play, everything was different. I was no longer a sick kid in the hospital, fighting for my life. I was just a kid. Instead of being weak and in a bed, I could run and jump and fly!  For a brief moment I didn’t feel weird, or other or alone. I got to just be a kid. This is the magic and joy that gaming brought to my life.

The Desert Bus for Hope event has raised so much for the kids. This year is the 13th annual Desert Bus and on day three we hit 5.5 Million Dollars lifetime. As I write this we are at $401,000 and on target to ‘bus’ until midnight Thursday night (November 14th, 2019).

Photo by Kolin Toney

Please consider checking out the website, donating, and watching the stream. You can find us at desertbus.org.  The fine folks on stream will dance, sing, tell stories and so much more all to raise money for this great cause. Join a fine community and help out the kid who just wants to be a kid.