Every year, JDRF’s Northern California chapter holds the Hope Gala to raise money and celebrate their community’s accomplishments. This year’s Gala was September 30 in San Francisco, and the honorees were our very own JDRF Game2Give leaders and founders: Dan Connors, Hans ten Cate, and Josh Larson!
JDRF Game2Give and the NorCal chapter have had a special partnership ever since our program started in 2019… even before that, actually. Back in 2017, when Dan was CEO of Telltale Games, he selected JDRF as the beneficiary of a Humble Bundle in honor of his son, Rollie, who lives with type 1 diabetes (T1D).
Soon after, Dan started chatting with the chapter’s then–executive director, Nicole Friedland, about how JDRF could tap into the video game industry and community to raise money and awareness. This video, shown at Saturday’s ceremony, tells the rest of the story:
The Gamified Gala
Our team worked closely with the chapter to inject video games into every aspect of the event. We had playable arcade machines alongside Captain Novolin on a genuine Super Nintendo. We also showcased games with links to type 1: JDRF One World, Omnipod Bay, and The Sims 4, which added CGMs to their Create-a-Sim interface earlier this year.
During the cocktail hour, Gala attendees mingled and checked out the games. JDRF Game2Give is unique in the nonprofit world because most of our team members and advisors have long careers in games. The Gala gave us a chance to introduce our JDRF colleagues to our game industry friends from EA, Nintendo, Humble, Roblox, Twitch, TopGolf, AdHoc Studios, and more.
Below: Hans ten Cate and Nicole Friedland near Captain Novolin; Roblox Senior Director of Engineering Walter Hsueh with his wife, Charlene Hu, checking out JDRF One World; Kevin O’Scanlon (the inspiration for JDRF One World’s DJ Diabeats!) looking cool with Dan Connors.
Below: Monique Hughes with Humble’s Alex Hill and his wife Sue Jin; Emily Morganti with Dennis Lenart of AdHoc Studios; Sims 4 team members Erik Pearson, Lyndsay Pearson, and JoAnna Lio with TopGolf’s Morgan Roarty (former Maxis Studios COO) and Hans ten Cate (former Development Director on The Sims).
After cocktails—which included a blue specialty drink named after everyone’s favorite hedgehog—the evening program kicked off. But wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves!
AFK Adventures by the Bay
The Hope Gala was on Saturday, but the fun started earlier in the week when two very special guests flew into San Francisco: our all-time top fundraiser ResurrectionFern, and Season 4’s Ambassador of the Year Patch Notes. After all this time collaborating with Fern and Patch online, it was amazing to meet them IRL!
On Friday afternoon we toured Twitch’s downtown headquarters. Left to right: Emily M., Josh (trying to make himself shorter), Monique, Patch’s wife Cori, and Patch Notes. (Fern and her husband Jay had just flown in and needed to squeeze in a nap!)
We started in the lobby, which has a giant interactive “digital aquarium” where partnered creators are represented as fish.
As Josh discovered, poking the wall causes more “fish” to spawn.
Twitch’s Director of Community Marketing & Production, Mary Kish, took us through some amazing themed rooms that Twitch staff can book for things like esports tournaments, DJ meetups, and karaoke… you know, regular work stuff. We especially liked the Big Lebowski music room, where their CEO, Dan Clancy, likes to stream his own music.
We also admired the art on the walls, including LEGO installations created at past TwitchCons…
…and a cafeteria mural featuring the hero of one of our favorite T1D-connected games, Super Meat Boy.
Our tour ended in the arcade, where Twitch employees can hang out and play games whenever they want. Our question, asked with the utmost respect: when do they get any work done?!
After Twitch, we strolled past Chinatown and ended up at the Embarcadero, where we had drinks and munchies overlooking the Bay Bridge. Left to right: Patch, Josh, Monique, Jay, Fern, and Emily.
Then Hans treated us to an incredible dinner at One Market, a restaurant that happens to have a T1D dad as their executive chef.
The Evening Program
Okay, now that we’re all caught up: once we were suitably tipsy on Gin & Sonics, the Hope Gala’s evening program kicked off with a special address by JDRF’s CEO, Aaron Kowalski, who beamed in live from JDRF One World.
Emily and our Roblox developer, Isaac Meier, recorded the footage for this video using Roblox’s real-time facial animation technology. With his avatar dressed up as Aaron Kowalski (who appears as an NPC in JDRF One World), Isaac played the script Aaron had recorded for us while also mouthing the words into his camera. Emily then pieced the audio and video clips together, and we handed these off to a professional video editor for polish.
Then came the best part of an already incredible night: ResurrectionFern took the stage for a live performance of her song “Hope.” Fern wrote this in honor of JDRF after our first Twitch fundraiser in 2019, and for all the times we’ve seen her perform it online, nothing compares to seeing it in person, surrounded by friends.
Here’s the video of Fern’s performance:
After the song, Patch joined Fern on stage to present Dan, Hans, and Josh with the Living & Giving Impact Award.
Our fearless leaders went on stage with their kids to accept the award. Left to right: Reese Larson, Tabitha ten Cate, Rollie Connors, Dan Connors, Josh Larson, and Hans ten Cate.
In their acceptance speech, the honorees acknowledged the groups that have been so integral to our program’s success: companies like Twitch, Electronic Arts, Roblox, Nintendo, TopGolf, and Humble who have supported our efforts; our amazing staff, including Emily Morganti and Monique Hughes on the Game2Give side and Kellee Hearn, Kevin O’Scanlon, and Emily Riley on the NorCal chapter side; and our awesome streaming community.
They also thanked their kids—Reese, Rollie, and Tabitha—who are at the very heart of JDRF Game2Give and the reason we’re in this fight until type one becomes type none.
Here’s the honorees’ acceptance speech:
Following a live auction that brought the total raised for the evening above $1.2 million (!!!), the dance floor opened up with a special video playing in the background.
For one night, we all got to dance in JDRF One World’s V1P tent!
(Geeky side note: this video, created for us by Patch Notes, is an homage to a Sam & Max video Telltale Games created for a Game Developers Conference party back in 2008.)
Wish you were there?
In a way, you can be! Each table had a neon centerpiece with the JDRF Game2Give logo. We brought a bunch home with us, and we’ll come up with creative ways to give these away to our streaming community throughout Season 5.
On behalf of the entire JDRF Game2Give team, THANK YOU to everyone involved in organizing an amazing evening that put our program in the spotlight in the most entertaining of ways. Start to finish, it was an unforgettable experience.
Also, big shout-out to Mary Kish and Elyssa Grant from Twitch for surprising us on Saturday by offering $5K matches to both Fern and Patch during their upcoming National Diabetes Awareness Month campaigns!
GAME OVER, T1D!