Eastpointe man’s early video game club helped hospitalized kids 30 years ago

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published November 4, 2015

 Eastpointe resident Ernest Sevener looks over an album detailing the game parties and donations that his video game club ran in 1982-83. The Activision Addicts held the parties at Bi-County Community Hospital in Warren, St. Joseph Hospital in Mount Clemens and the Born School in St. Clair Shores, among other locations. (Photo by Edward Osinski)

Eastpointe resident Ernest Sevener looks over an album detailing the game parties and donations that his video game club ran in 1982-83. The Activision Addicts held the parties at Bi-County Community Hospital in Warren, St. Joseph Hospital in Mount Clemens and the Born School in St. Clair Shores, among other locations. (Photo by Edward Osinski)

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EASTPOINTE — Starting around the fall of 1982, a group of local video game enthusiasts — calling their club the Activision Addicts, and later, the Video Addicts — decided to help local hospitalized kids for the holidays.

Former Video Addicts club president and Eastpointe resident Ernest Sevener said the club formed around 1981-82. The club would meet at Abbot Video in Roseville once or twice a month to try out the new games and see how they liked them.

“At that time, I was laid off from Chrysler,” Sevener said. “And I was really into video games and I didn’t have much to do with my time, so I said, ‘If I‘m this bored and I have all this time, how can I help these kids (who are hospitalized)?’”

And so the club arranged a “Game Day” at Bi-County Community Hospital in Warren and received donations of gaming equipment and gifts from the video game companies to help those kids fight off their boredom. Sevener said he wrote letters to a number of the major companies at the time — like Atari, Imagic, Apollo and Activision — to see if they would be willing to donate goods to the hospitals.

He said the pediatric wing of the hospital received computers and game systems, video games, T-shirts, hats and other little gifts from those companies during the first event.

“All it basically cost me was the letters to send to the companies, or for the phone calls, plus whatever else we bought for kids in the hospital — candy and cake,” Sevener added.

At a second event at the St. Joseph Hospital in Mount Clemens, Activision Addicts members came out to give all the kids gifts and candy, Santa Claus made an appearance alongside some club members in clown costumes, and the kids got to see a special screening of “Star Wars” to go with the pediatric wing’s new Atari 2600 game system and 10 games.

“I found out from the hospital board how many kids were in there, so we went out shopping for kids and wrapped (the gifts) all up,” Sevener said. “Everybody had something, so nobody went without.”

The hospital staff was thrilled with the donations and the party. Ida Barnes, head nurse at St. Joseph’s pediatric wing at the time, wrote a letter a month later to the Addicts thanking them for the Atari system and the visit.

“It is great,” Barnes wrote. “The kids have really been making use of it, and it is still in perfect working condition. Thanks too for the party. As you saw, the kids really enjoyed themselves.”

The club continued to run events into 1983, holding a game night that April at the St. Clair Shores Adult Education Born School to get games and equipment donated to the developmentally and physically disabled individuals there. Ultimately, they received an Atari 800 computer, an Atari 2600 game console and 25 games between them.

The club also held a couple of other game nights at local schools, with about five in total, Sevener recalled.

The Video Addicts club lasted for about five or six years before the members drifted away and lost contact with each other; the game parties themselves faded as the corporate culture changed and companies were less willing to give away free hardware and games, Sevener said.

In one sense, however, the club was a pioneer. The charity Child’s Play has annually donated toys and games to children’s hospitals and domestic violence shelters since 2003 through cash donations from companies and individuals.

As for Sevener, while he was a big fan of Pac-Man, Centipede, Space Invaders and other space-themed games, he has since moved away from video games, refocusing his entertainment time on DVDs. His wife, Robin Sevener, still enjoys playing a few games on her computer and phone, though, and he said her nephew still collects and plays those classic games of yesteryear.

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