When it comes to playing games for charity, Albert Dzurka of Fairfield is a pro.
An Information Technology professional on Wall Street, Dzurka, 43, is also a broadcaster, podcaster and gaming enthusiast who heads the Extra Life Team known as “The Player’s Club.” Members of his team raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, of which Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is his hospital of choice.
“Connecticut Children’s has done so much for me and my family,” said Dzurka, a father of three whose first encounter with the Medical Center was eight years ago when his son, Dylan, was 15 and was taken there by ambulance following a downhill razor-scooter accident.
“It was the worst you could imagine,” Dzurka recalled. “Blood was coming out of his ears, and they had to release pressure from his skull and eardrums. I owe everything to Connecticut Children’s; they saved his life.”
Fast forward to 2014 and Dzurka and his wife, Chloe, found themselves at Connecticut Children’s on New Year’s Eve with their then-9-year-old daughter, Soleil, whose appendix had ruptured. “If it wasn’t for Connecticut Children’s, she wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Enter Extra Life
For Dzurka, finding a way to give back has been a natural extension of his life-long interest in online video games. Dzurka came across Extra Life, which unites thousands of gamers around the world to play games in support of their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. “I’m a big enthusiast,” said Dzurka – also known as “DZ Live” – who has a broadcast studio in his home and began live-streaming about five years ago. “I live-stream every night.”
Since its inception in 2008, Extra Life has raised more than $40 million for sick and injured kids, with fundraisers playing games for charity. In addition to video games, some groups choose to play board games, card games and even outdoor games, like football. For many Extra Life groups around the country, the fundraising culminates in a 24-hour marathon gaming session, which this year takes place on November 3.
Dzurka said he learned everything about live-streaming for charitable causes from Lanai Gara, who he met on Twitch, a popular online service for watching and streaming digital video broadcasts. According to Dzurka, Lanai “MsVixen” Gara (@MsVixen), who is the founder of TeamVGaming (@Team_V_Gaming), is considered a charity champion within the Twitch community, having raised thousands of dollars for numerous causes, including Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. “I learned everything from her,” he said.
Three years later, Dzurka started his own Extra Life Stream Team, which currently has 10 members, all of whom select a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital to support. “I hosted an event a year ago in which we raised $8,300,” Dzurka said. “For Connecticut Children’s, I’ve personally raised about $10,000.”
How It Works
Live-streaming is the delivery of Internet content in real-time, as events happen – like watching a live television broadcast with the ability to interact via video chat. On June 30 of this year, Dzurka and The Players Club conducted a 20-hour Extra Life broadcast, which was sponsored by Maingear Computers (@MainGear), ASTRO Gaming (@ASTROGaming) and Tara Bruno PR (@TaraMBruno), and watched by thousands of online gaming fans. MainGear provided $30,000 in hardware for the new F131 gaming systems used in the broadcast, while ASTRO Gaming provided $500 in hardware giveaways. (Tara Bruno, as a publicist, helps connect Dzurka to major brands and sponsors.)
“Imagine a Jerry Lewis Telethon,” said Dzurka. “We started at 6 in the morning and ended at 3 am. While we were fundraising, someone said to me, ‘If you shave your beard, I’ll donate $500.’”
And so he did.
To add to the excitement, giveaways included ASTRO gaming headsets and a drawing for an Xbox One X—a contest which 6,634 people entered.
Dzurka said at any given time, there are upwards of 300 people tuned in to their fundraising broadcasts. Gamers from across the country tuned in to the June 30th broadcast, which was promoted for eight hours and raised more than $8,000 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
“I do one of these about every other month,” Dzurka said. The next broadcast for The Players Club is scheduled for Sunday, October 28, at Microsoft at Westfarms Mall in West Hartford.
“I’m really proud of my team,” Dzurka said. “Extra Life is a great way to raise money for kids in need and the hospitals that support them. I think we are on to something great here.”