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    Achievement Unlocked! Marine, North Smithfield native raises money for Rhode Island children's hospital from Korea

    Achievement Unlocked! Marine, North Smithfield native raises money for Rhode Island children's hospital from Korea

    Photo By Master Sgt. Clinton Firstbrook | Gunnery Sgt. Leon Branchaud, Communication Strategy and Operations chief, U.S. Marine...... read more read more

    CAMP LEJEUNE, NC, UNITED STATES

    11.16.2020

    Story by Master Sgt. Clinton Firstbrook 

    II Marine Expeditionary Force

    Shadows conceal a squad of security forces as they quietly advance down a trash-riddled alley toward their objective. Gunnery Sgt. Leon Branchaud sends distinct hand signals to his team then relays muffled instructions through his headset.

    "Coming up on the objective now. Lucky, call in Cleric for helo support once we secure the building. BREACH!"

    Chaos erupts as his team crashes through a wooden door, sending occupants into a panic as they dive for cover and surrender without a second thought. Target secured; support inbound.

    Suddenly, a notification bell chimes through a set of speakers and listeners hear a robotic voice announce, "$20 has been donated by Mike and Caleb.”

    After powering down his PC that night, Branchaud, who streams with the handle DudeGuyBroGuy, raised $237 for the Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, bringing his 2020 donation season total to $1,915.

    The setting for this esport operation could’ve been launched in any clime and place, but tonight it occurred in a barracks room on Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.

    “As long as I have an internet connection, and some friends to link up with during the event, it has always been a success," said Branchaud, Communication Strategy and Operations chief, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Korea.

    For several nights and weekends every year, Branchaud is one of a select few who utilize their gaming talents for the Extra Life program to raise money for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

    “Back in 2016, I was listening to a podcast to help pass the time,” explained the 34-year-old. “Someone started talking about an event where you play games with friends for 24 hours straight and all donations go to a children's hospital of your choice. They had raised over a million dollars that year, and while I doubted I would ever get close to that amount, I wanted to give back and help those in my home state.”

    Branchaud, who enlisted in 2004 out of Recruiting Substation Woonsocket, has a more intimate relationship than most with Rhode Island children’s hospitals as he experienced their care firsthand.

    “I was born at about 1.5 pounds,” said the North Smithfield, Rhode Island, native. “It took a tremendous amount of effort to keep me going with many follow-up sessions throughout my childhood to make sure I was developing properly. As soon as I heard there was a way to give back to them I knew I had to do my part.”

    Since clicking the start button on his charitable endeavor, the 2004 Woonsocket Area Career and Technical Center graduate has respawned for more than 100 hours, earning countless badges, trophies, and achievements to help fund critical treatments, healthcare services, and pediatric medical equipment.

    “This is simply an incredible story and an inspiring example of the amazing support Hasbro Children’s receives from the community, even when our friends are halfway around the world,” said Hasbro Children’s Hospital Pediatric Surgeon-in-Chief and Division Chief of Pediatric Surgery Dr. Francois I. Luks. “We could not be more grateful to Leon for his service to our country and for his commitment to the children in our care. Philanthropy drives so many of the extras that provide our patients with a sense of normalcy during hospitalization. There’s no question Leon’s generosity has helped to make a tremendous impact in the lives of families when they need us most.”

    Branchaud, who received medical care at the Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, even launched an expansion pack in 2018, which included streaming spicy food challenges with the world's hottest chocolate bars, nuclear ramen noodles, and candies that reached 10 million on the Scoville heat scale.

    “When I saw that was taking the internet by storm, I was just surpassing my yearly goal so I thought it could help a little bit,” he said. “Doing challenges like these on social media in real-time and interacting with viewers led to a larger audience. Everyone had a good laugh so it spread like wildfire.”

    Branchaud also said seeing messages like "You got this!" and "Do it for the kids!" was all the motivation he needed to keep coming back for more.

    “It was very painful, but absolutely worth it,” he said.

    At the end of his five-year campaign, Branchaud’s donation loot box now totals $9,022.

    “It’s critical to keep in mind that while children’s hospitals are playing an essential role in the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re also conducting research, offering preventative care, and providing health and safety education that build healthier communities today and after the crisis ends,” said CMN Hospitals Extra Life Director Ashley Farkas. “Local children’s hospitals need support now more than ever and we’re forever grateful our Extra Life network, including Mr. Branchaud, continues to change kids’ health and change the future, near and far.”

    To watch Branchaud’s gaming exploits online, visit www.extra-life.org.

    “I don't see myself stopping anytime soon,” said Branchaud. “The feeling I get from helping children receive the same care I had as an infant is indescribable. Knowing I played a role in covering a family’s medical bill or helping a hospital receive better equipment is amazing and something truly special.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 11.16.2020
    Date Posted: 11.16.2020 08:59
    Story ID: 383076
    Location: CAMP LEJEUNE, NC, US 
    Hometown: NORTH SMITHFIELD, RI, US

    Web Views: 502
    Downloads: 2

    PUBLIC DOMAIN