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Bella, a young patient who was isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic, cuddles with the GameChanger mascot “Hope the Monkey.”
Photo courtesy of GameChanger.
  • GameChanger helps children who are isolated while being treated for cancer and other serious illnesses.
  • The nonprofit network provides movies, games, videos, STEM education, and other programs to these children.
  • Other technology companies such as Reddit and Twitch have assisted GameChanger.

It’s been said that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

In the early 2000s, Jim Carol’s plan was to become a global pioneer in streaming video technology for smartphones.

He succeeded. Carol’s company, PacketVideo, was the first to enable delivery of rich multimedia software on mobile phones and it now runs on more than 1 billion cellphones.

This brought him wealth and prestige.

But when his 11-year-old son, Taylor, was diagnosed with a rare type of leukemia in 2006 and forced into hospital isolation, Carol vowed to use technology to help his son and other children with cancer and other serious illnesses who are hospitalized.

The result is the GameChanger, a nonprofit, cloud-based network that delivers curated, age-specific movies, games, videos, livestreaming, STEM education, financial aid, scholarships, and other services to ease the pain and isolation of children in treatment.

With the help of Carol’s fellow tech executives from such companies as Amazon Web Services, Google, YouTube, Microsoft Xbox, Reddit, and Twitch, GameChanger has emerged as a global leader in distraction therapy and pain mitigation for seriously ill children.

So far, GameChanger has helped more than 25,000 children and 6,500 caregivers worldwide.

Before hatching this venture, Carol visited 250 hospitals worldwide, interviewing employees to learn about what children isolated in hospitals needed most.

“We visited pediatric hospitals, bringing gifts and talking over lunch. From Australia to Europe, UK, Canada, and the USA,” Carol told Healthline. “In these travels, many universal truths emerged. Like the love of a parent, courage, and how kids whose parents didn’t have money didn’t have access to tech and great content.”

He also learned that most hospitals were not equipped to give children the content they loved in the way they consume it.

“We decided to change that,” Carol said.

He noted that the emergence of COVID-19 among children has elevated the risk and isolation for young, immunocompromised patients even further.

“This makes our work that much more important,” he said.

The technology leaders who’ve assisted on this mission were dubbed “Tech Avengers” by a national television network executive in a private meeting with Carol.

The name stuck.

Steve Huffman, CEO and co-founder of Reddit, the social news and discussion website that ranks in the top 20 websites in the world, recently joined the GameChanger board.

“What inspired me to join the other tech leaders on the board is the commitment GameChanger has for using tech and innovation to make life better for underserved populations, sick kids, and caregivers — their passion for leveraging innovation and tech for good,” Huffman told Healthline.

Reddit’s employees have worked on strategy and provided free ads for GameChanger. The staff members also have provided mentoring and coaching on best ways to use social media and keeping kids connected.

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Tristan, a 5-year-old boy being treated for cancer, enjoys a GameChanger musical program with his mother, Jenna.
Photo courtesy of GameChanger.

Another member of Carol’s board is Dave Levy, vice president of federal government, nonprofit, and healthcare at Amazon Web Services (AWS), which has provided almost $2 million in funding.

AWS has also made available engineering support, AWS credits, planning consultants, and early release of products such as AWS IVS, a livestreaming solution for creating interactive video experiences.

“Hospitalization can be an isolating and stressful experience, especially now as COVID-19 has led to stricter hospital visitation and distancing procedures,” Levy told Healthline.

“AWS is proud to be a part of GameChanger’s efforts to use tech and innovation to ease the pain of kids dealing with life threatening illnesses,” he said. “Together, we’re committed to leveraging the cloud to bring the power of play to even more hospitalized children across the country.”

Other GameChanger board members include Emmett Shear, founder and CEO of Twitch, the world’s leading video platform and community for gamers.

Twitch has helped GameChanger with engineering support, as well as donating private unlisted servers and showcasing GameChanger at the Twitch Con Keynote. The company has donated $1 million and is providing free ads.

Also on the board is Tim Stuart, the chief financial officer of Microsoft Xbox, which has donated more than 5 tons of games, consoles, gear, and marketing materials.

In addition, the company has hosted fundraisers and employee giving programs. It has donated 10,000 game passes for hospitalized kids.

GameChanger’s newest board member is Malik Ducard, vice president of content partnerships at YouTube.

He joined the board in August and the company has just begun working with Carol to provide content from YouTube Premium.

Google, too, has worked with GameChanger to deliver augmented reality to hospitals.

The GameChanger platform is now live at such locations as Children’s Hospital of Orange County, California; Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah; Highline Medical Center in Burien, Washington; and the Children’s Inn at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

At Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the technology department was able to add a one-click icon for GameChanger to the MyChart patient portal, giving children and their families instant access to the network.

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Taylor Carol, center, helps introduce GameChanger programs to a young patient named Isaiah and his father, Steve.
Photo courtesy of GameChanger.

Meanwhile, Taylor Carol, who fought his cancer for 5 years, is now 26, a Harvard graduate, and cured of his cancer.

He said working with his father to improve the quality of life for hospitalized children has gained momentum beyond anything he and his dad envisioned.

“When I got cancer, and then a bone marrow transplant, I was scared and very lonely,” Taylor told Healthline.

“I was so lucky my family had the resources to provide me tech, gaming, and tutors. It broke my heart to witness other kids suffer and fall behind in school. That’s when my dad and I vowed to change the game,” he said.