Published: 06/26/2022 20:35:06
Modified: 06/26/2022 20:32:34
HADLEY – Students at Whole Children in Hadley have raised more than $400 to help those affected by war in Ukraine.
The $423 was raised through a raffle and video game tournament that was donated to Inclusion Europe’s efforts on behalf of their Ukrainian member, the VGO Coalition, which helps Ukrainians with mental disabilities and their families. Both organizations are advocacy groups for people with developmental disabilities.
The 14-person tournament was won by ninth-grader Max Pearson and ninth-grader August Santos, finishing second.
“I just wanted to help people who needed it,” Pearson said.
“It was a fun event mixed with a topical issue,” Santos said.
Entries for the tournament, which took place on May 7, went to fundraising and featured games on the Nintendo Switch console, such as Tetris Super Smash Bros. and Just Dance. Participants were awarded points based on their result in each of the games, with the winner of the tournament being the player with the most total points.
Pearson said the event was the first time he and Santos have hung out in person in two years, despite playing online video games together during the pandemic. Funds were also raised through the raffle, which ended on May 27.
The origin of the fundraiser came from Whole Children staff member Evan Sabourin, who saw that there was a Humble Bundle of indie games being sold to benefit those affected by the war in Ukraine. After gauging student interest in Whole Children programs, he helped organize the fundraiser.
Valle Dwight, director of development and communications at Whole Children, said attendees learned that children with disabilities in Ukraine were the hardest hit by the war.
“I think the kids were really connected to that,” Dwight said.
Whole Children provides recreational and enrichment activities for children and teens of all abilities, especially those with special needs. It serves people from as far away as Connecticut and Vermont and beyond.
“We have very low student-teacher ratios,” Dwight said.
Whole Children is also moving and will be located at Village Hill in Northampton.
Pearson and Santos both identify as being on the autism spectrum.
“It’s nice to have a community of people that I can talk to and be myself,” Pearson said, when asked what Whole Children means to him.
Santos, meanwhile, said he has been involved with Whole Children for nine years and has done activities that include video games and gymnastics through the organization.
“I got to know a lot of people through that,” he said.
Whole Children also offers a program called Milestones for Adults.
“We really like the idea of having a fundraising event for video games,” he said.
Bera Dunau can be reached at [email protected]