OMAHA — Patrick Burkholder isn’t exactly a video game aficionado.
But from his hospital bed on Monday, the 18-year-old picked up an Xbox controller and sent his avatar zipping through the blocky world of “Minecraft.”
“It’s been a while,” Burkholder said of the last time he played the game.
The Omaha teen was one of the first patients at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center to try out one of five new gaming carts donated by local video gamers.
The gaming kiosks, called GO Karts, were added to the Omaha hospital’s existing fleet of video game systems. The carts, constructed by the Michigan-based nonprofit Gamers Outreach, carry Xbox One S devices that are loaded with nine games.
Two of the carts were donated by LanFest Netwar, a volunteer group that hosts video game events for charity. The other three carts were donated by local gamer James Gittins, who raised money at a Michigan gaming event. Each cart cost about $3,500.
Video games are in demand at the hospital, particularly for patients who are in isolation and can’t visit the activity rooms on each floor, said Terry Patterson, manager for family resources at the hospital.
“This is about normalization for kids,” Patterson said. “It’s not only about good health care. We want to continue to provide the same social and recreational outlets as home.”
It’s been something different for Burkholder to do while cooped up in his hospital room. He’s been in and out of the hospital since January for a series of digestive issues.
“It’s an amazing thing because it takes his mind off it,” said Tisha Burkholder, Patrick’s mother. “It’s a normal activity, even if it’s only for an hour.”
Each cart has a game console tucked under a desk with all cords out of sight. A monitor and two controllers sit on top. After being wheeled into patient rooms, the height of the carts can be adjusted. The medical-grade kiosks are wiped down after each use.
LanFest Netwar will host another fundraising event on March 16. Proceeds will go toward purchasing three additional carts for the hospital, said Travis Kreikemeier, founder of the group.
Gittins was looking for a way to give back to others and drew off his own hospital experience as a child. He spent four days hospitalized after a severe case of pneumonia.
“I remember waking up and seeing a Super Nintendo there for me to play,” Gittins said. “It made me feel less like I was in a hospital and more like I was with my family playing games.”