Gamers raise $122,200 in memory of 5-year-old cancer victim

8:52 AM, Aug 21, 2013   |    comments
Five-year-old Sarah Marie Alida Parries passed away from brain cancer in May of 2013. (image: Storify)
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Players of computer game MechWarrior Online, a title still in development and currently in open beta from developer Piranha Games, have raised more than $122,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society in the name of five-year-old Sarah Marie Alida Parries.  The money was raised through the in-game sale of special-edition Jenner Class Chassis Champion mechs, which are referred to within the game as "Sarah's 'Mech".

The full $122,200 will be presented to the Canadian Cancer Society on August 23rd in Montreal during a special ceremony featuring members of Sarah's family and representatives from the Canadian Cancer Society's national office.

"The money raised in tribute to Sarah serves as an inspiration for all of us," explained Scott Fairbairn, Director, Corporate Development at the Canadian Cancer Society. "It speaks to the strong sense of community evident in players of MechWarrior but also clearly demonstrates how this story has touched the broader community resulting in a legacy of hope in contrast to the sadness we all feel with Sarah's passing."

Five-year-old Sarah Parries, who passed away on the morning of May 7, loved watching her father play MechWarrior Online.  Shortly before Sarah lost battle with brain cancer, her father reached out to the developers of the game and asked them for a favor - to post a note for her on the game's official Facebook page to wish her well.  Sarah did not live long enough to see that happen.  Instead, the staff at IGP, the game's publishing company, created a small memorial for her on the game's official Facebook page.  That triggered an outpouring of online support from the game's more than one million registered players.

"The MechWarrior community was so touched by this young girl's story that they really drove what happened next," said Kelly Zmak, president of IGP. "Reading through thousands of comments on our forums and social pages, IGP and Piranha agreed immediately to create an in-game 'Mech in Sarah's honor for charity."

Three months later (the time it takes to design, create, animate and insert a 'Mech into the game), Sarah's Jenner was born.  "Sarah's Jenner" was available as a limited-time in-game purchase from July 23rd through August 20th.  The Jenner was cited as her favorite due to its unique ability to move quickly and utilize night vision, a key component to obliterate the "baddies", as Sarah would refer to enemy 'Mechs.  Developers at Piranha Games incorporated some of her favorite items onto her 'Mech's appearance, including rainbows, bandaids, and teddy bears.

"The groundswell of support in the first 48 hours from the MechWarrior community, the games industry media and gamers everywhere was overwhelming," noted Bryan Ekman, creative director at Piranha Games.  "We were hoping to raise at least $10,000.  We reached $38,000 in the first 48 hours and it just kept going from there.  Our fans are incredible and we can't thank them enough."

Although the fund raiser has finished, Piranha Games and IGP encourage the public to continue to donate in Sarah's name to the Canadian Cancer Society:


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