JDRF Game2Give Honored at Hope Gala

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.

Kids playing Pac-Man, Street Fighter, and Galaga arcade machines, with Captain Novolin on a TV in the background.

During the cocktail hour, Gala attendees mingled and checked out the games. Breakthrough T1D Play 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 Breakthrough T1D 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.

A man in a suit and a woman in a black dress, standing in front of a Captain Novolin poster.
A couple in formal clothing standing in front of a Roblox poster and TV showing Breakthrough T1D One World.
Two men in formal attire mugging for the camera.
Hope Gala attendees posing for pictures.

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).

Three people in formal attire posing in front of a wall of Breakthrough T1D Play logos.
A woman and a man taking a selfie at the Gala.
A group of people posing in front of a wall of Breakthrough T1D Play logos.
Hope Gala attendees posing for pictures.

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!

Blue drink with maraschino cherries at the top, in front of a sign that says "Specialty Cocktail sponsored by JustAnswer. Gin & Sonic: Gin, Blue Curacao, Tonic Water"
A program standing up on a table with the ballroom visible in the background. The program says "Gala On! End T1D!" and has art of a neon cocktail glass with a game controller in it.

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!

Patch Notes (wearing a maroon suit) and Resurrection Fern (in a black dress) posing for a picture.
Patch Notes (wearing a maroon suit) and Resurrection Fern (in a black dress) posing for a picture.

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!)

A group of people standing in front of the Twitch logo.
A group of people standing in front of the Twitch logo.

We started in the lobby, which has a giant interactive “digital aquarium” where partnered creators are represented as fish.

A big blue screen with colorful digital "fish" next to a sign that says "Please do touch the glass."

As Josh discovered, poking the wall causes more “fish” to spawn.

Josh Larson poking the digital aquarium and watching fish spawn on the screen.

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.

Purple gaming chairs with Twitch logos set up in front of computers decked out for streaming.
Framed pictures on the wall showing a Big Lebowski movie poster, a knit sweater design, and a picture of The Dude.

We also admired the art on the walls, including LEGO installations created at past TwitchCons…

Lego art of a Twitch logo with SuperMario sprites in the letters and a mountain range in the background.
Lego art of TwitchCon 2018 logo and various emoji.
Two pieces of LEGO art. One is a Twitch logo with Super Mario sprites in the letters and a mountain range in the background. The other is the TwitchCon 2018 logo and various emoji.

…and a cafeteria mural featuring the hero of one of our favorite T1D-connected games, Super Meat Boy.

Mural on the cafeteria wall featuring Meat Boy and other game characters.
Monique taking a selfie in front of Meat Boy in the Twitch cafeteria mural.
Mural on the cafeteria wall featuring Meat Boy and other game characters, next to a selfie of Monique in next to 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?!

Pong video game table in Twitch's arcade room.
Four pinball machines in the Twitch arcade room.

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.

A group of people sitting at an outdoor table with food and drinks on it, with the sky and Port of San Francisco building in the background.

Then Hans treated us to an incredible dinner at One Market, a restaurant that happens to have a T1D dad as their executive chef.

Small potato latke topped with sliced avocado and caviar, on a gray plate.
Monique chowing down on a Reuben sandwich, with the restaurant in the background and a salmon plate in the foreground.
Two dinner pictures. The first shows a small potato latke topped with sliced avocado and caviar, on a gray plate. The second shows Monique chowing down on a Reuben sandwich, with the restaurant in the background and another plate of food in the foreground.

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.

Aaron Kowalski's Roblox character on-screen in the background with silhouettes of people watching in the foreground.

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.

ResurrectionFern playing an electronic piano and singing, in front of the Gala audience.

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.

ResurrectionFern and Patch Notes on stage, with Patch speaking into the microphone.

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.

The honorees and their kids on stage accepting the award.

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.

Dan Connors gives his award acceptance speech, with Josh Larson and Hans ten Cate watching in the background.

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.

The honorees posing with their kids.

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!

Band members singing with Breakthrough T1D One World dance party video playing in the background.
Gala attendees dancing with Breakthrough T1D One World dance party video playing in the background.

(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 Play 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.

Lit-up neon sign of the Breakthrough T1D Play logo, with people dancing in the background.

On behalf of the entire Breakthrough T1D Play 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!


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Breakthrough T1D Play (formerly JDRF Game2Give®) is a program within Breakthrough T1D™, the leading global type 1 diabetes (T1D) research and advocacy organization.

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