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September 20, 2016

High School Entrepreneur Giving Back

Max Rubenstein is a junior at The Galloway School in Atlanta, GA. He participated in the Business and Entrepreneurship Institute at Summer Discovery in Michigan during the summer of 2015.

Since Max was young, he has always had two things he loved: giving back to the community and playing video games.  Shortly after the Summer Discovery program, Max coupled his two favorite hobbies into the creation of his charity: Game Givers. His charity’s goal is to donate new and used video games to Children’s hospitals throughout the country.

Now, after having already raised over $50,000, Max answers some questions about his summer experience, the process of starting his charity, and his plans for the future.

What made you choose the Summer Discovery Business and Entrepreneurship Institute at Michigan? I have always been interested in business. My Dad is a CEO and going to work with him and watching him speak in front of thousands of employees has always intrigued me. I was looking for something different than the seven years of overnight camp I had done previously during the summers and this program seemed like a great fit. I also really liked the idea of living on a campus dorm and having the freedom to explore campus life and make friends from all over the country. It was a great experience all-around.

What was your favorite part of the program? We got to visit several start-up companies in Ann Arbor. We went to Google which was really fascinating because I love new technology and enjoyed the energy and excitement from being in a start-up environment. This carried over to my life after Michigan, as I spent the next year working for an online comic book application in the Atlanta Tech Village.

How did the program help you to shape your career goals, your charity, and your Shark Tank pitch? I started Game Givers through Giving Point (www.mygivingpoint.org). This organization has an institute in Atlanta where they recruit 20-community service minded students. Each month there are different seminars based on topics everyone needs to know to be successful in business. They brought in local experts and CEO’s to teach concepts (i.e.: perfect pitch, sustainability, marketing and advertising, budgeting and finance, etc.). The Summer Discovery program was a similar format but in a shortened time frame. Giving Point was a yearlong program so everything could be tailored to my particular charity with experts giving advice along the way to keep me on track.

Tell us about your charity. 8 years ago, my Grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Throughout her fight, she would often play games (either on her I-pad, game boy or social games with friends i.e. mah jongg and canasta) to take her mind off her pain and make the time go by while she was in treatment. When we spoke about it, she could not comprehend how kids were dealing with similar illnesses and I did some research to see if they had video games available to them in hospitals. I found out that many hospitals don’t have the budgets or resources to keep kids entertained or distracted. When she passed away last October, I decided I wanted to make a difference for sick kids in hospitals and started Game Givers in her memory, as she was my inspiration. Since then we have raised over $54,000 in video game donations, monetary donations and game developers have also reached out sending us codes and books.

What has the process been like from idea stage to launch? When I first had the idea, I talked to my parents about it and then set up a one-sheet explanation of the charity that I pitched to Giving Point Institute. They loved the idea and pushed me to pursue it.  I figured I would start with the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta because they were down the street from my school and it is the largest children’s hospital in Georgia. Because of health risks to children and strict regulations I was unsure they would let me come in to talk to them. To my surprise, the volunteer services and child life specialists were thrilled to get a call from a then-15 year old. They gave me a tour of the facilities and we quickly built a wish list of games and consoles they needed most. Last Halloween, when kids were not allowed to go trick-or-treating, I was able to donate over 200 games so everyone had a treat on Halloween. Since then I have made three more drop-offs and worked with their sister hospital Hughes Spalding in downtown Atlanta.

Once I had my power point presentation, my pitch down, and my uber driver lined up, I would go to different hospitals and Ronald McDonald houses after school and by the end of the year, I had lined up 7 partnerships.

What are your next steps to grow your charity? There is a high school leadership organization called HOBY (Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Foundation). Each school can nominate one student finishing their sophomore year and they meet for a leadership seminar in the summer. I was fortunate enough to go. There was a business pitch competition for alumni that posed the question “What’s your Big Idea?.” As one of the ten national semi-finalists, my goal is to win this contest and have these HOBY Leaders start Game Givers in their schools. These student leaders are the next generation of givers and my goal of the charity have always been “kids helping kids.”

In addition to this, I have received some grants and will continue working on more grant proposals to help pay for some new games. It is always rewarding to drop off used game donations at these hospitals, but dropping off the top-ten brand new games, especially at the holidays, is an amazing feeling. I would like to once again be able to work off the hospitals’ wish lists and make the holiday season spent in the hospital a bit more enjoyable for these kids.

This year I also have a goal of working with at least 10 new children’s hospitals and have just started a partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital. To ensure a cohesive message, I have been working on an operations manual and guide and will be using prize money that I won towards marketing materials, giveaways and pamphlets.

Anything else we should know about you? From 8:00a.m. -3:00p.m Monday-Friday, I have to go to school and still be a kid; and not just a kid, but also a junior in high school. So I am juggling AP’s and other rigorous classes, SAT tutoring, school extra-curriculars and college tours. I feel so fortunate to have the support of my parents and my school. They really look out for me and help me succeed in my dreams. I am lucky that I found my passion early in life and my drive and determination helps me manage school/charity/life/friends.

If you want more information about Game Givers, please go to http://www.gamegivers.org/ or visit them on Twitter (@Game_Givers) or Instagram (@Game_Givers). For those of you reading this and thinking you have a closet in your basement filled with old games, consoles and controllers, Game Givers will take them! Please reach out to max.gamegivers@gmail.com and he would be more than happy to reimburse shipment for your working used and new items. Together we can make a difference in the life of a child.