Six months ago, Andrew Dardick and Brandon Millman were trying to figure out what kind of help they could offer to people in the Baltimore area. Having worked for Johns Hopkins Hospital as a nurse, Dardick suggested raising money to buy video games for young patients. While children’s hospitals often have video game systems, the games are frequently out of date, Dardick said.
The duo launched the nonprofit TeamoTherapy (pronounced tee-moh-therapy) in May. They primarily raise money through Twitch, a livestreaming video platform.
The two broadcast themselves playing video games from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m Tuesday and Thursday. They play cooperative, role playing and action-adventure games. People can donate during the broadcast or on the group’s website, teamotherapygaming.com.
Dardick, 26, of Blacksburg, Virginia, is a nurse who reviews patient medical records. Millman, 29, of Owings Mills, works in human resources at Zeffert & Gold Catering and Event Planning in West Baltimore’s Gwynn Oak neighborhood.
“We work full-time, so schedules can be a little bit hard. We just have been sticking to the same schedule — carving out that time necessary for streaming. It makes it a lot easier obviously when it’s something we enjoy,” Dardick said. “But we do love interacting with our viewers, and people who support us.”
So far, they have raised nearly $15,000. At Hopkins, they will be upgrading the gaming systems in the hospital’s pediatric oncology unit. Patients will have access to the games by the holiday season. As of Monday morning, TeamoTherapy’s Twitch account boasted 1,100 followers. Videos are captioned: “Every stream is a charity stream!”
Dardick said he witnessed the positive impact of video games on patients while studying at the University of Maryland School of Nursing and working as a nurse for Johns Hopkins Hospital in 2017. A teenage patient diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and suffering from excruciating abdominal pain, gave a rare smile after playing video games with Dardick.
“I understand what kind of video games and equipment that hospitals have” Dardick said. “A lot of times, it’s really outdated equipment that patients aren’t necessarily interested in.”
Patients will have access to the games either in their rooms or common areas.
Dardick met Millman while a sophomore on the Owings Mills High School wrestling team in 2011. Millman had graduated already but came back to coach the team. The duo quickly became friends as they worked out and played video games.
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For now, the two will continue to work with Hopkins as they were the most responsive of the hospitals they reached out to.
“The technology of games advances so quickly, and quicker than we as a hospital on a large scale could keep up with, so it’s always helpful when an organization that understands about games and technology that a patient might come .... [and] find a game that is five years, or 10 years old,” said Devon Ciampa, clinical social worker in the pediatric oncology unit. “[TeamoTherapy] will be able to raise money, or help us get up-to-date gaming systems and games.”
Dardick said the goal is to provide the same service to other hospitals in the region, and, hopefully, internationally.
He said he went into the medical field after volunteering for Friendship Circle in high school, which pairs teens with children with disabilities. The program allowed him to form friendships while playing video games.
Because video games often demand full attention, they are being studied as a form of pain management. According to a 2016 study by the University of San Diego, “games have a high potential to focus the player’s attention on the game and create a high degree of immersion, and thus support feelings of relaxation and recovery from stress and strain.”
“Whether or not we were streaming, we’re both gamers,” Millman said. “We play games all the time.”
This article is part of our Newsmaker series that profiles notable people in the Baltimore region who are having an impact in our diverse communities. If you’d like to suggest someone who should be profiled, please send their name and a short description of what they are doing to make a difference to: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Editor Kamau High at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A previous version of this article transposed the names of Brandon Millman and Andrew Dardick in a photo caption. The Sun regrets the error.