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YYC Console Drive targets kids’ isolation with collection of gaming systems

In an age of console gaming systems, one giving way to the next every couple years, Calgarians are bound to have an old unit stored somewhere under the stairs.

It’s time to put it to work with YYC Console Drive.

The drive’s founder, David Tanhelson, a Masters student at UCalgary, is an avid gamer himself, owning a few gaming consoles and adept at building his own computing systems.

He came to Calgary in 2017, leaving his network of friends back in Ottawa. Gaming kept him connected.  That became even more important over the past year with the isolation brought on by COVID-19 public health restrictions.

“It helped me with my isolation. So, it didn’t hit me as much as I know it hit a lot of other people,” Tanhelson said.

With the launch of new Xbox and Sony Playstation systems, it struck Tanhelson: People would be replacing their old with the new. That presented an opportunity.

“It’s been a prolonged lockdown. Isolation is still growing,” he said.

He considered where the isolation might be made worse: Places where children are being cared for. That could be hospitals, group homes or even organizations that help low-income or disadvantages families.

“The children that have pre-existing conditions, that were in the hospital before, and who used to be able to go to the common room and play with other kids, but now they’re strictly in lockdown,” he said.

“At the same time, the pandemic has aggravated the financial situations for many families.”

The console drive

Tanhelson said he’s pulled together a handful of volunteers and the goal is a modest one. They want to collect, test, clean and distribute at least 50 gaming consoles to different organizations in the city.

They’ve already started working with The Alberta Children’s Hospital, Woods Homes and Between Friends. The need is there. They’ve contacted several organizations, but with COVID-19 keeping people at home, it’s been tough to get a response.

(LiveWire Calgary reached out to Woods Homes and Between Friend via email to participate in the story, but a response hasn’t yet been received.)

The group will accept most semi-current gaming systems and they’ve even entertained the inclusion of iPads. They’ve already had 10 consoles donated, plus games, controllers and other hardware.  

“We usually have volunteers to kind of pick up whatever donations accumulate over a week over the weekend,” Tanhelson said.

They’re eyeing up a month-long campaign to hit their 50.

If they get more than their 50 target, they’ll distribute more. Though it might take a few more volunteers.

“I don’t know if this is going to start growing, becoming huge,” Tanhelson said.

“I think there’ll be a bridge I’ll have to kind of cross when I get to it.”

If you have a console that you’d like to donate, you can go to yycconsoledrive.com. If you have question, send them an email at yycconsoledrive@gmail.com.