On the surface, Gamer Pal is exactly what it says it is. It’s about a responsible young adult playing video games online with younger children.
But it goes much deeper than that. There’s a lot more going on here.
Gamer Pal is a safe and fun way for parents to engage their children during a period when everyone is spending much more time at home. It’s also a business venture between a sister and a brother. It’s a product of an entrepreneurial household.
But perhaps most importantly, it’s a great idea brought to life by calculated actions.
Gamer Pal is a collaborative financial venture by Lebanon siblings Kate and Max Foley. The concept came from their mom Stacy Foley, but it was born from the coronavirus pandemic.
“My mom noticed that parents are feeling a little overwhelmed these days,” said Kate Foley. “So we decided to create a business to lessen the burden, a kind of virtual parents’ helper. Parents make hourly appointments and Max plays video games with their kids for an hour or two. It’s really kind of a two-fold experience. Kids get to play games with someone responsible, but they’re also learning all of these life skills.”
“My mom came up with the idea, told my sister and I about it and we thought we’d try it,” said Max Foley. “We were like, ‘OK, we’re going to go for it.’ It’s like a mother’s helper. It’s a chance for kids to play video games in a really safe environment. The name ‘Gamer Pal’ is something that, when someone hears it, they immediately know what it is. It’s someone you can trust. It’s a pal. You’re just hanging out.”
Parents can sign their children up for sessions of age-appropriate game playing or private live streaming with Max through Gamer Pal’s page on Facebook. In addition to having fun and being engaged, children can learn essential life skills, problem solving and social interaction.
All of the interaction with Max is done virtually, from the privacy of the client’s home.
“I’ve been playing video games since I was very little,” said Max Foley, a 17-year-old, home-schooled senior. “I’m currently on an esports team and we play in tournaments. Sometimes kids play games I haven’t played in awhile, but I pick it up pretty quickly. I think the kids really enjoy when I don’t know all the things about games.
“All the kids I’ve been working with are really cool,” continued Foley. “I have always liked hanging out with kids. I have that experience.
“’Gamer Pal’ is a cute catch phrase that reflects what our business is really all about,” said Kate Foley, a 20-year-old sophomore at Ursinus College. “But kids aren’t just playing games. They’re getting a one-on-one experience with a responsible teenager. Max is really good with kids, and he loves to play video games with them. They get to play with someone they can look up to.”
On another level, Gamer Pal is meeting a need created by the COVID-19 crisis. Kids are staying home more now, going to school virtually and spending less time with their friends and peers.
Since launching their business on Oct. 29, most of the Foley’s clients have been local children between the ages of six and ten. The cost of a one-hour session is $15, or $25 for two hours.
“The prices are a little cheaper than what an in-person babysitter would charge,” said Kate Foley. “I feel like they’re very reasonable. There are some things we can’t do that an in-person baby-sitter could do. The availability is based around the clients’ schedules. We can set up an appointment in an hour’s notice. The parents know their children are safe. It’s just Max playing video games with clients’ children.
“It’s a mix, mostly local kids, who are home for a variety of reasons,” Foley continued. “Right now, they’re really missing that sense of community and interaction. It’s great for kids who are stuck at home, and parents know their children are engaged in a safe environment. For an hour or two, we’re completely engaging their children. And sometimes parents need time for themselves.”
“I would say it’s a little more than virtual baby-sitting,” said Max Foley, an extrovert who volunteers at Henry Houck Elementary and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. “It’s also a learning tool and a teaching experience for the kids. I try to teach them life skills and other things. I would say it was born out of [the pandemic]. We were here and we also needed to make money. I think a lot of parents need our service. They’re not comfortable having people come over or having someone babysit in person.”
But Gamer Pal has also provided a learning experience for the Foleys. Not only are Kate and Max sister and brother, and business partners, they’re also teammates.
“Max and I make a great team,” said Kate Foley. “We each have such different skill sets. I can take his ideas and turn them into graphic designs. Communication is a lot of fun for me. With Gamer Pal, it’s been a lot of business publicity. It’s been great working with him.
“Max is definitely a bigger gamer,” added Foley. “I act as an executive administrator. I set up the appointments, do all of our advertising and all the stuff behind the scenes. Most of my contributions have been with the parents. Max is getting most of the time with the kids.”
“I guess on a very technical level, we couldn’t do it without each other,” said Max Foley. “She plays video games, but not as much as I do. It just really works well together. It has all the benefits of working with anyone in a business partnership. We’ve always gotten along.
“She handles the business side of things and I’m more involved with the kids,” added Foley. “She makes the appointments and then she’ll come to me, ‘Hey, does that work with Max?’ I’ll try to learn a little about the client before meeting and talking to the kid. Then when I get on with them I’ll say, ‘Hey, what do you want to play?’ It’s them playing with a friend they can trust.”
The Foleys’ parents also own and operate their own business, so in a way, their entrepreneurial spirit is a product of both nature and nurture. While the success of Gamer Pal is still being fostered, they already have some future financial ventures in mind.
“I hope this sticks around for as long as it can,” said Max Foley of Gamer Pal. “I hope it reaches as many kids as it can. I hope a lot of kids have fun with it. I hope parents think it’s going to be a really good experience for their kids. There’s much more to video games than mindless fun. I think there’s a negative connotation to them sometimes. Some people think their kids are just going to be playing video games. But video games can be very good for teaching team work, and things like that.”
“Our whole family has an entrepreneurial spirit,” said Kate Foley. “Our whole family has that creative mindset. There’s always this thinking, ‘Let’s make it happen. Let’s see what happens’. These ideas kind of come about naturally.”
For necessity is the mother of invention.
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