The death of a young girl has inspired a surprising flood of generosity from the online gaming community.
A total of $122,210 was donated to the Canadian Cancer Society on Friday, in the memory of Sarah Parries, who was one of the youngest members of online gaming community, MechWarrior.
The five-year-old girl died earlier this spring, only a week after her family found out she had an inoperable brain tumour.
"It wasn't like she was sick or had headaches all the time, nothing like that. She was always happy, energetic, loved to play. It was really unexpected," says Jonathan Parries, Sarah’s father.
Like her father, Sarah loved to play online games.
He describes how she would sit on his lap as they played MechWarrior, an online robot shooter game.
After Sarah passed away, the gaming company posted a memorial on its online forum.
The Parries family was surprised by the outpouring of support.
Members of the gaming community flooded the forum with messages, many of them urging the company to create a 'mech'—a virtual robot—in Sarah’s memory.
"Everyone was like, 'You guys should make a mech, you guys should make a mech.' They ended up making it and it was really overwhelming," says Parries.
A 'mech' made of teddy bears and rainbows
The staff at Piranha Games, the company behind MechWarrior, was quick to hop on board.
"We were like yes, absolutely, let's do this. Let's jump on it. It's a great cause. We love it," says founder and creative director Bryan Eckman.
The mech created in Sarah’s honour was decorated with decals representing the things she loved: rainbows, unicorns and even her teddy bear.
For one month, online gamers were able to purchase the character inspired by Sarah for $10 and play in her memory.
In the end, about 12,000 people donated.
The Vancouver-based Parries family travelled to Montreal to deliver the cheque and take part in a special ceremony with the Canadian Cancer Society and Infinite Game Publishing, the digital publisher affiliated with MechWarrior.
The results took everyone by surprise.
"The people were really good-hearted and wanted to do something good-spirited...We were really excited to be part of this program," says Scott Fairbairn, director of corporate development for the Canadian Cancer Society.