EAST GREENWICH—In observance of September as childhood cancer awareness month, the New England Institute of Technology (NEIT) highlighted recent work carried out by students in its video game design and development program in conjunction with the nonprofit Izzy Foundation and patients at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. The students, patients and foundation worked together to produce an original video game while developing new friendships and fostering hope.

“September is designated as childhood cancer awareness month in order to bring awareness to those children afflicted with this disease,” said NEIT senior vice president and provost Douglas Sherman. “Working with the patients at Hasbro Children’s Hospital has not only taught our students new gaming skills but, more importantly, our students learned about the resiliency and perseverance these young patients face daily.”

Students from NEIT’s video game program worked during a game jam to create and design a playable video game within only two-weeks. To make the game jam experience even more meaningful to the students, two patients who were undergoing treatment at the hospital volunteered to participate in the project, giving the students an added incentive to produce a game that the patients would enjoy while creating a fun diversion in their lives.

Sadly, one of the patients succumbed to her illness shortly after the game jam, but the creation will always hold a piece of her legacy.

The effort was coordinated by Izzy Foundation executive director Erin Scott to provide an innovative method for engaging students while simultaneously giving back to the community. In fact, the collaboration between the students and patients was such a great learning experience that the NEIT gaming faculty reconnected with Scott to ask if they could partner once again, this time with a North Providence High School senior who is a cancer survivor with a passion for video games. The student provided the video gamers with the theme for a 24-hour game jam which was a great success.

Together with the patients, NEIT students at the earlier game jam created a video game called Turnip Knight, wherein the player enters a medieval world of food and guides a small turnip knight through a castle banquet. The students also created a button to enable players to make voluntary donations directly to the Izzy Foundation.

“We are proud of the rewarding relationships that have developed between the hospital patients and our Video Game Design and Development degree candidates,” Sherman said.

The Izzy Foundation is a national nonprofit located in Providence whose mission is to design, fund and inspire creative projects and programs for families whose children have cancer or other life altering medical conditions to live, laugh, love and play.

The inspiration for The Izzy Foundation came from Isabelle Marie Wohlrab (Izzy), who was diagnosed with Stage 4 rhabdomyosarcoma cancer two weeks after her first birthday. The organization was initially created to defray the costs of Izzy’s stem-cell transplant in Germany, but the foundation now seeks to design spaces, provide services and support to children with cancer and their families by implementing inpatient and outpatient services for pediatric patients at the Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

Since 2011, the foundation has raised over $1 million through fundraisers, donations, merchandise sales and various other initiatives.

“Our Foundation has a unique understanding of the hardships that families go through during long hospital stays, because we have been there, too,” the organization said in a statement. “Our founders, many of our board members, and our directors have also sat in hospital waiting rooms for days, weeks and months while our children receive exceptional care.”

Contributions to the foundation help to fund many projects including the building, design and creation of spaces like the Izzy Family Room, a special playground in North Carolina, and the Izzy Surgical Waiting Room at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, as well as the Izzy Family Room programs and activities, scholarships for pediatric cancer survivors and their siblings.

Turnip Knight is free to download and play, and can be found on Google Play.

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