Extra Life: Play Games, Heal Kids’ 24-hour gam­ing marathon

Exhibited by
Rickesh Lakhani
May 22, 2024
Medium of Communication
Online, video games
Target Audience
Individuals, gamers
Type of Charity
Children’s hospital
Country of Origin
United States & Canada
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

In this case study, video game enthusiast and fabulous fundraiser Rickesh Lakhani asks: How can a plumber, riding a dinosaur, help raise money for children?

Well, as you’ll see, anything is possible in the world of gaming – and that includes turning a passion for helping children into a global fundraising phenomenon. Keep reading to discover why Rickesh celebrates the success of Extra Life and how it’s evolved to meet the needs of donors and raise a whole lot of money in the process.

Organisation name:

Extra Life, in aid of Children's Miracle Network Hospitals


This is the virtual, peer to peer fundraising event that was around before there were virtual, peer to peer fundraising events! Even prior to the pandemic, when many fundraisers turned to virtual innovation, this online space was uniting thousands of gamers from around the world so they could raise vital funds for children’s hospitals in Canada and the United States.

Creator / originator

Jeromy ‘Doc’ Adams founded Extra Life in 2008. At the time, he was a radio host and avid gamer.

According to their website, Extra Life began as a way for gamers to show support for a 15-year-old from Texas. Her name was Victoria (Tori) Enmon, and she was fighting acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Tori’s battle inspired Jeromy and his friends in the Sarcastic Gamer Community to send video games and buy gifts to keep Tori’s spirits up during her treatment. She loved this support, especially as she was a gaming enthusiast herself.

Sadly, Tori passed away in January 2008. Later that year, Jeromy wanted to do something more to honour Tori’s legacy. He asked his gaming friends if they would be interested in growing this concept by taking part in a 24-hour video game marathon to raise money for the hospital that treated Tori.

Over the next two years, hundreds of gamers had already raised over US$300,000 from 12,000 donors. But Extra Life was still expanding further.

Understandably, some Extra Life community members wanted to raise money for hospitals that were closer to their homes. And that’s when the partnership with Children’s Miracle Network – who represent hospitals across North America – was born.

You can find out more about the evolution of Extra Life from an initial 24-hour gaming marathon to a huge fundraising community that has raised US$110 million, here. And you can watch a short video explaining more about how Extra Life works, here

Special characteristics

Since 2010, thanks to the scalability and minimal infrastructure of this fundraising idea, it has really blown up.

The fundraising proposition is simple. All gamers have to do is sign up to Extra Life and get their own donor page. Then they play video games and invite their family, friends and wider network to donate and watch them play online.

Participants in the Extra Life community can also choose to play board games or games on their phone, as long as it’s a game – they can play it!

And when it comes to how much each member should hope to raise, that’s flexible too. On their site, Extra Life encourage donors to choose an amount that means something to them. In fact, they say:

‘While the default goal amount is US$100 for Classic participants and US$200 for Platinum, we encourage you to find a goal amount that means something to you. Jeromy Adams (the founder of Extra Life) set his goal back in 2011 for US$5,415: the total of US$5 for every day his friend Tori spent fighting leukaemia before she passed away. It was an ambitious goal and one that made him nervous, but it meant something to him. It turned out that it meant something to his donors, too – they helped him almost DOUBLE his goal!’


Here’s why I think Extra Life has achieved such fantastic fundraising success over the past 16 years:

  • Extra Life started organically, like many great ideas do. It began small, but quickly gained ground. The story and passion behind it became a strong foundation on which this idea was built. As fundraisers, if we’re truly fostering innovation and creativity, then ideas will come from many places in our organisation – especially from the people who care!
  • Extra Life also capitalised on market trends to make this idea a fundraising success. Video, e-sports, gamification, streaming to raise money are all growing and gaining momentum within our sector. And if you don’t believe it can happen, consider this other example. Gamer ‘DrLupo’ raised US$2.3 million in 24 hours for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 2019.
  • They built a unique online experience for their audience – and created the ‘gamification of gaming’. Extra Life has badges, avatars, special items and real-life swag that you can unlock. This rewards players/donors for being part of the community.
  • Extra Life remembered to recognise loyalty too, something we should do more of in our sector. Every year that members of the community come back to play again another year, they got more flair that they could show off to their friends online.
  • Rather than taking their success for granted and assuming everyone was happy, Extra Life listened to their player/donors and took onboard feedback to enhance the user experience.
  • Of course, keeping up with technology was key to this idea’s success. From 2008 to the present, Extra Life has evolved. They partnered with Twitch, which is a streaming platform. So, as you are watching a video game stream, you can donate. Your donation then pops up onto the screen in real-time. It’s very cool! All these changes didn’t come all at once, Extra Life made continued effort over time to improve.
  • Extra Life knew their audience. This fundraiser had both an existing and growing audience where there was a real a sense of community – fortunately the founder, Jeromy, was a gamer himself and knew what this community was looking for. Even the fact that they called the gamers ‘heroes’ was masterful. It speaks to what gamers and donors want to see themselves as.


Extra Life was, and still is, a hugely successful fundraising campaign. From raising US$200,000 in the first two years, to topping US$70 million in 2020, Extra Life has gone from strength to strength. It turns virtual accomplishments into real world accomplishments – doing good for others.

As of 2024, Extra Life has raised over US$110 million and counting.

Final notes

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals raise funds and awareness for 170 member hospitals that provide 32 million treatments each year to children across the U.S. and Canada. Donations stay local to fund critical treatments and healthcare services, paediatric medical equipment and charitable care.

IMAGES: © All images Rickesh Lakhani and the Extra Life website

Rickesh Lakhani celebrated this super fundraising idea at the first-ever edition of IWITOT: The Americas. Please watch his full seven-minute presentation and interview below.

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How can a plumber, riding a dinosaur, help raise money for sick children? At IWITOT: The Americas 2021, Rickesh Lakhani, celebrated a great fundraising idea he wished he thought of – Extra Life!
Extra Life is a gaming fundraiser that allows individuals to raise money for children’s hospitals in their local area.
View original image
It’s easy to get started as a fundraiser with Extra life.
View original image
Extra Life has achievement badges, avatars, special items and even real-life swag. All of these are used to reward Extra Life players/donors for being part of the community.
When it comes to great fundraising results, Rickesh points out that Extra Life has achieved a ‘high score’!