Welcome to our Corporate Partner Spotlight. Each month, corporate leaders share why they serve as advocates and ambassadors for Children’s National Hospital within their company and across the community. This month, we spoke with Josh Hafkin of Game Gym.
Josh Hafkin is founder and CEO of Game Gym, our region’s first esports training center. Game Gym offers a healthy and holistic approach to video games, with professional, certified coaches and structured sessions designed to help kids find confidence in themselves through better and smarter gaming. Before founding Game Gym in 2018, Josh worked for video game publisher Bethesda Softworks and launched GEICO's esports program. He grew up in Rockville, MD, and is a former Children’s National patient. Josh joined the Children’s National Corporate Advisory Council in 2021.
Why do you support Children’s National as a member of the Corporate Advisory Council?
I have a strange valve in my heart, and I went to Children’s National to get it checked out when I was young. I vividly remember how everyone there made me feel — it was a very scary thing that I remember feeling very comfortable with. The people at Children’s really cared about me, and that feeling of comfort and trust has stuck with me ever since.
When I started Game Gym, I wanted to be sure that we do as much good as we can. Linking that to my time at Children’s National was a really clear choice for me. It started with our Triple Crown series, but being part of the Corporate Advisory Council is the next step. It’s a real honor to be a member. Game Gym is definitely one of the smallest organizations represented, but we bring our passion and unique expertise to help the kids and families who count on Children’s National.
Can you explain what Game Gym’s Triple Crown is and how esports fundraising benefits Children’s National?
Three events make up our Triple Crown: the Summer Bash, the Winter Games and the Spring Summit. Each is a championship that is the culmination of our summer, fall and spring tournament series. But it’s grown into even more of an experience. We now have speakers from across the industry that focus on some of Game Gym’s priorities, like increasing diversity and gender equality in gaming, more access and inclusion and talking to parents about gaming. We bring all these people — kids, parents, professional gamers, industry experts — together to play, learn and raise money for Children’s National.
Our Triple Crown events supported just general fundraising at the hospital. Then we found out that Children’s National does games-based research, and we wanted to support and bring awareness to this amazing work. We even had one of the researchers, Dr. Kevin Cleary, join one of our recent events. He talked about how the hospital incorporates games into their research and how our community can support the creation of more game-based research. Our fifth event is coming up in December, and our goal is to raise as much money as we can and bring even more awareness.
What lessons have you learned from your time partnering with the hospital?
Maybe the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that there are amazing things happening in your own backyard — you just need to look for them. I had no idea that Children’s National was doing this games-based research until I started to get more involved. Dr. Cleary, who’s leading this research, is doing amazing stuff. One element of his research is how video games can help kids with Cerebral Palsy improve their motor skills.
I’ve also learned that no matter how small you are, there are opportunities to help — you just have to help in your ways. Game Gym doesn’t have the dollars that some of the larger organizations who partner with Children’s National do. But the gaming community is a big network and we’re doing our part to grow awareness there.
Children’s National just launched its follow the leader campaign — what role can business leaders play in the success of this campaign and the hospital?
It’s about awareness, then mobilization. As business leaders, we have to let people in our networks — whether it’s social media or immediate circles — know what Children’s National is doing and help them get involved. It’s a numbers game. The more people who know, the more people who will eventually support the campaign.
We also want to ensure people stay engaged with the campaign from start to finish. Sustained momentum is critical for campaigns like follow the leader and the long-term success of Children’s National. Let’s get people excited, get them involved, then keep things rolling by letting them know what’s next.
What’s the most rewarding part of working with Children’s National?
Obviously, helping the kids. Many of the children and teens treated at Children’s National don’t get a normal childhood. They’re dealing with issues that make them feel a world apart from other kids. Games can bring together people from around the world and all different backgrounds. Games can be therapy. They can be something to look forward to for kids who are going through really hard moments at such a young age. Being able to be part of that is incredibly rewarding. When it’s safe, I’d love to bring our Game Gym team in to interact with as many kids at Children’s National as possible. Being able to high-five or fist bump, having that human connection and see first-hand the impact for the kids is going to be more rewarding than anything else.Corporate partners are key to helping us ensure every child can grow up stronger. If you or your company are interested in supporting Children’s National, please contact Foundation Vice President Julie Butler at [email protected].