MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some online personalities are using their public platform to raise money for the Memphis-area St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The video streaming service Twitch is one of the largest content platforms in the country.
Twitch is best known as a digital venue to watch hosts play video games, and some users have tens of thousands of subscribers who pay to watch them. Users can play games, play music, cook, or perform however they want, and it’s turned into a serious business.
“The basic concept is you’re doing that thing live, and people are watching you and interacting, so it’s like TV but they can talk directly to the person,” said streamer Trevor Gomes, aka 88bitmusic.
St. Jude first jumped into the gaming world back in 2014, with its St. Jude Play Live summit.
Gamers from across the country gather at the hospital every summer to play with patients and help raise money.
“Hey, gamers can play games and do good for charity,” said Melanee Hancock, St. Jude’s chief digital innovation officer. “There was only a small amount that was raised that first year, but it just keeps growing and growing.”
“With St. Jude, I have no problem saying, if you can afford it, you should give them money,” Gomes said.
Six years later, collecting donations through streaming and video games is now a massive fundraiser for the hospital.
“We’ve had over 275 people come here and raise money for the kids,” Hancock said. “There’s over 20,000 influencers that raise money for St. Jude online.”
It’s a natural connection. Young patients connect to pros that do the same things they love, while the Twitch platform allows these massive influencers to give back.
“Kids love video games, there’s no question about that,” Gomes said. “So some of the kids are fans of Twitch and streamers, so there is that overlap, but I think at the end of the day, we are compelled by what a great cause it is.”
“They’ve really embraced the mission of St. Jude, and it’s fun to watch the kids’ faces when they can play games with some of their heroes in gaming,” Hancock said.
St. Jude officials said streaming and video games led to more than $12 million in donations last year — more than the prior four years combined.
The year was a capped off by a user named Dr. Lupo, who’s widely regarded as one of the most popular streamers on Twitch. Dr. Lupo raised more than $2 million during a 24-hour stream.
“He is very connected to the mission,” Hancock said. “He has been to campus. He loves playing games with the kids. To watch him raise the $2.3 million during his 24-hour live stream was incredible.”
With its 7th Annual Play Live event looming and more streamers than ever donating to St. Jude, there’s hope the money raised for charity continues to climb.
“Streamers who do it see an increase each year, so I’m personally gonna shoot for some big numbers,” Gomes said.
“They’ve raised over $23 million,” Hancock said. “There are over 20,000 donors and growing. We’re really excited about the future of what gaming can contribute.”
The streamers have become crucial parts of saving lives at St. Jude. They might have fun doing it, but they leave a serious impact.
“Funds raised by gamers are critical that families never play St. Jude for anything — treatment, travel, housing or food — so that all a family has to worry about is helping their child get better,” Hancock said.
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