For the second year in a row, Lupo has partnered with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s PLAY LIVE, a philanthropic fundraising venture that raises money for the medical facility. Last year, he raised over $600,000 for St. Jude with a livestream fundraiser. With a 24-hour stream planned for Saturday, December 21, starting at 1 p.m. Eastern time on his Twitch channel, this year’s goal for the stream is even more ambitious: he hopes to reach $2 million.
Lupo, named one of Time Magazine’s 25 most influential people on the Internet this year, was also recognized at St. Jude’s annual 2019 awards for his efforts.
“We were so honored to be able to name him as our content creator of the year at our annual awards ceremony, where we honor the folks that have contributed the most to our mission,” said Rick Shadyac, CEO of ALSAC, St. Jude’s fundraising organization.
Since PLAY LIVE’s debut in 2014, it has raised almost $20 million with over 20,000 participants who stream for the cause. Other prominent streamers have taken part, including The Game Theorists’ MatPat and Stephanie Patrick, who raised more than $1.3 million just two weeks ago during a nine-hour livestream.
The massive fundraising hauls make a difference. The administrators at St. Jude says that a $200 donation would cover a platelet count test for four patients. A $5,000 donation covers the daily room rate of the ICU. Patients’ families never have to worry about being billed for treatment, housing, travel or food at St. Jude — and that’s made possible in part thanks to charity streams like Lupo’s.
To incentivize viewers to donate, Lupo uses a mix of strategies like prize pools, donation tier rewards and goofy stunts, such as dressing up in a llama costume. Sometimes viewers will donate and ask Lupo to use a certain weapon in a game he’s playing, like wielding a shotgun in Fortnite to change up the gameplay. During last year’s charity stream, his wife played a scary game to help raise funds (though she only lasted five minutes).
This isn’t the first time that Lupo has partnered up with a charity. In the past, he’s raised funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the National Fragile X Foundation. Charity marathon streams have become a phenomenon with content creators, thanks to platforms like Games Done Quick, which teams up with speedrunners who race their way through video games, and Extra Life, which has seen an influx of gaming publications like Game Informer and Giant Bomb take part.
St. Jude is among one of Lupo’s more involved partnerships, and he’s visited the hospital to meet the patients whose lives he helps save.
“I personally think the reason [Lupo] is so successful is [due to] the way that he can talk about our charity with authenticity because he’s come [to the hospital] a couple of times,” Shadyac said. “He knows the kids. He knows their stories. He knows what we do.”
“The kids very routinely know who I am, which is pretty cool,” Lupo said.
He was hesitant to visit at first, because he’s an “emotional guy” and feared it would be heartbreaking. Parts of it are, he said, but when he arrived he was surprised to find “happiness and normalcy.”
“For the people that get admitted and stay there, their families uproot pretty much everything that they have to go and devote everything they can to try to save their child from whatever they’re up against,” Lupo said. “So you’d imagine it would be a very somber environment and it’s really not.”
Lupo has no intention of slowing down when it comes to philanthropy. Sponsors like State Farm and his esports organization RektGlobal — that signed him earlier this year — help the cause with generous donations of their own. In addition to the stream-based fundraising, Lupo is also selling Build Against Cancer T-shirts, already selling more than 350 and raising over $5,000.
This story has been updated to correct the goal amount for the fundraising stream from $2.7 million to $2 million. The $2.7 million figure initially referenced is an annual goal and includes previous fundraising done by Lupo for St. Jude in 2019.