(BPT) - A child's diagnosis with a critical illness is devastating for their entire family. And for families now coping with a global health crisis, the challenges are even greater. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Make-A-Wish chapters nationwide have faced a record number of wishes still waiting to be granted, because any involving air travel or large gatherings have been postponed for everyone’s health and safety. Now, the foundation is gearing up to grant every pending wish as soon as it is safe to do so.

Because of these challenging circumstances, Make-A-Wish has had to think creatively about new ways to bring hope and joy to Make-A-Wish kids during these unpredictable times. Not surprisingly, as wish kids are dealing with the difficulties of a critical illness while staying at home, there has been an exponential increase in wish requests related to gaming.

For example, wish kid Preston spends his free time conquering popular games like Fortnite and Minecraft, and he is always searching for new ways to challenge himself. No stranger to overcoming challenges, Preston was diagnosed with a congenital heart disorder before he was born. He required three different surgeries from his infancy through his childhood, plus numerous procedures to monitor his condition.

"He spent the first month in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where he was hooked up to several different leads monitoring pressures in his heart," said his mother, Sarah. "We were not able to hold him for the first three weeks of his life."

Fast forward to now: Preston celebrates his 13th birthday with family and friends, plus a very special surprise from his favorite store — GameStop. Preston was overwhelmed when his wish for a Sony PlayStation 5 (PS5) console was granted by GameStop and Make-A-Wish, making it his "best birthday yet."

"When COVID hit, gaming was a way for him to de-stress from remote learning and play with friends he could no longer see," Sarah explained. "It’s still very much his virtual getaway from the life we are all having to live. What this means to him is being able to create, have fun and interact with people through the internet from the comfort of his room."

The benefits of gaming for wish kids

For kids like Preston, video games provide meaningful emotional and psychological benefits.

  • Socializing: Gaming offers opportunities for kids to socialize with friends online while undergoing treatment. Gaming-related wishes are more important than ever, as wish kids are even more isolated due to the vulnerability caused by their illnesses.

  • Distraction: Playing video games creates a welcome distraction from daily challenges, which can enhance the kids' overall well-being.

  • Goals and focus: Video games offer fun, rewarding, achievable goals that kids can work toward, giving them a feeling of control over their situation and a focus for their energies.

Since the pandemic began, shopping spree and electronics-related wishes quickly became the top most requested wishes for the foundation — which receives wishes related to GameStop an average of 10 times a week.

GameStop powers up to help

In response, GameStop has answered the call. As soon as it was safe to fundraise in-store, the company launched their Change Round-Up campaign at checkout to support Make-A-Wish and two other charities. The gaming retailer also donated $30,000 for shopping sprees, supporting around 75 wishes. In addition, GameStop granted 15 PS5 and Xbox Series X console wishes at a time when the foundation could not locate them anywhere due to international shortages. During the holidays, GameStop store leaders nationwide called wish kids at home to let them know their wish for these highly coveted game consoles were coming true.

"The day Preston’s wish was granted was a day he will always remember," said Sarah. "Thanks to GameStop and Make-A-Wish, Preston is able to take his mind off of his illness and be a normal kid."

GameStop has raised over $7.5 million and has helped grant over 3,700 wishes. The anticipation of a wish can be a powerful motivator for kids as they face many challenges. These wishes help kids not only smile again, but give them renewed strength and confidence to keep going.

Learn how you can help Make-A-Wish grant more wishes to children with critical illnesses at wish.org.

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