Marathon Reflections: John Michael Bennett

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John Michael Bennett: Co-Founder, President, and Director of Communications and Marketing

By: John Michael Bennett

Marathon Reflections is a blog series for the month of June to celebrate the fact that Sandbox Gaming is gearing up for its tenth marathon ever. SBG’s board members, who dedicate countless hours each week to the organization and serve as the leaders of the group, reflect on the previous marathons and where Sandbox Gaming is now. 

As a founder and President of Sandbox Gaming, I’ve been around for every single marathon that we’ve had. All nine of them—and it’s hard to believe it’s been nine marathons. Back in 2010, if you told me in 2015 we were now preparing for our tenth marathon, I don’t think I’d have believed you.

Since our founding, we have raised over $33,000 for children`s charities that promote play. We`ve supported Child’s Play Charity, The Janeway Playrooms, Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador, REAL Program St. John’s, and the St. John’s Boys and Girls Club. Since our founding, we have made the difference in the lives of many children—for every dollar raised, we made it so that dreams are possible. We made it so that people could pursue their passions and their dreams. We firmly believe that the enjoyment of being a child and the mental health that goes with it is so very important. And I am so happy to say that we’ve raised so much to date and I hope by the end of marathon ten, we’ll see over $40,000 raised helping reach those dreams.

Sandbox Gaming has become more than anyone ever expected it to. When we first started, people laughed at us and said it’d never work. In 2010, the gaming community—at least as a collective—was rather small, and the concept of a video game marathon for charity had never been done in the province. So people were skeptical and said it wouldn’t work out. But that didn’t stop the few of us who believed in a shared idea—to take video games and do something good with it. I’ll admit, on a personal level, it was really great when a couple of years later the same people said they were wrong, and that SBG had grown into something phenomenal.

Sandbox Gaming has become more than just marathons though—we are about gaming in every capacity, and are trying to do all we can for gamers in Newfoundland. Many of our projects are run by different volunteers, some who have only joined in the last year. While SBG does charity marathons, we do so much community stuff—games days, board game nights, Pokémon Days, the bi-weekly D&D stream, and this very project—The Sandbox Post.

A bigger deal for me has been watching how others have grown from Sandbox Gaming and their experience during marathons. While what we do is important—seeing how it affects us internally has been a gift. I`ve watched the shyest people shine while on stream, and later say that being a part of Sandbox Gaming gave them confidence they never thought they would have had before. I`ve seen others start designing graphics for us, and later on use those skills they developed here for a career. I`ve seen people form relationships and friendships that`ll last a lifetime.

The marathon has brought on a lot of inside jokes—although in most cases, have actually gained popularity through our streams and are known by our long time viewers. For instance, I will never live down playing Super Mario Bros: Lost Levels for the first time, in which we died over 100 times on Level 8-3. Although, interestingly, this was not my first time getting stuck on 8-3 in a Mario game. During the first marathon in Super Mario Bros. I also got stuck on 8-3, and was bailed out by a friend who happened to be at the marathon at the time—he wasn’t even a member, but sure saved us a lot of time!

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I’m so thankful for where Sandbox Gaming is now. I’m so thankful for everyone who has helped us. Whether it’s a current or past volunteer, media sources who have covered us, people who have donated to the cause, etc. You have all made the difference in the lives of many. Together, we have changed lives for the better. And for that, I am just lucky to be a part of it. Sandbox Gaming is the best ride I’ve been on in my life, and I don’t plan on jumping off anytime soon.

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Sandbox Gaming Celebrates Their Tenth Charity Marathon from July 3-6, this time in support of Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador. Bookmark http://sandboxgaming.org!

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