Purdue employees to play video games for children's charity

June 24, 2010

At 11 a.m. Friday, (left to right) Chris Deckard, John Groth and Brian Brinegar will suit up in homemade Mario Brothers costumes and raise money for Child's Play charity. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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Three and half years ago, Purdue employee Brian Brinegar saw a webcast of students playing video games and asking for donations to buy pizza.

These students raised more than $1,000, but decided to give the extra money to charity. This overwhelming response gave Brinegar an idea.

In 2008, Brinegar teamed up with Purdue employees John Groth and Chris Deckard to create Mario Marathon, a video game fundraiser benefiting Child's Play charity. The annual fundraiser, now in its third year, will begin Friday (June 25).

"I'm not sure that any of us knew what we were in for when the event first started," Brinegar says. "Now in the third year, we stick with it because it provides a fun way to have a larger charitable impact than we could otherwise provide."

Child's Play, which gives toys, games and books to children's hospitals worldwide, is a small organization with an annual collection of less than $2 million. Mario Marathon is one of the top five fundraisers for the charity, which receives most of its donations from fans and players of video games.

The efficiency displayed by Child's Play impressed Brinegar, Groth and Deckard. "If we're going to ask people to donate money to a cause, we want most of the money to directly impact that cause. Child's Play has almost no operational overhead," Brinegar says.

The Web-based Mario Marathon event gives Brinegar, a Web services coordinator for Purdue's engineering computer network, the chance to experiment with and evaluate new technologies, Web designs and Web services before the University uses them.

Groth, a computer graphics technology lab systems administrator, and Deckard, a lead Web system developer for engineering computer network, provide technical knowledge for the marathon.

"The computer setup has become quite complex and includes multiple cameras, capture devices, sound equipment and custom software," Brinegar says. "Chris and John keep the show running and deal with any problems that occur."

Last year the webcast lasted 96 hours, attracted more than 150,000 viewers globally and raised more than $29,000. Brinegar expects to top those numbers this year. 

He says, "We've tied the length of play directly to the donations received. There is the potential that the event could last over five days if the donations greatly exceed our expectations."

This year's marathon, consisting of nine Super Mario Brothers video games, three Nintendo Wii consoles and Brinegar, Groth and Deckard, will begin at 11 a.m. Friday. A live webcast will be available for viewing during the entire event.

"Ultimately it's about playing games with friends and family. It just happens that we have thousands of friends and some of them are oceans away," Brinegar says. "I look forward to sharing the experience with as many people as possible and raising money for kids who due to illness can't be at home to share that experience with their friends."

For more information about Mario Marathon, to make a donation or to view the live webcast once the marathon has started, visit www.mariomarathon.com.