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Cal Poly student uses gamer streaming website to raise $32k for local homeless

Posted: 11:34 PM, May 26, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-28 02:24:39-04

A Cal Poly student recently spent the night of her 21st birthday behind the screen of her computer for over six hours raising more than $30,000 to help the homeless on the Central Coast.

With the goal of raising $1,000, Maya Higa logged onto her Twitch account Friday and began her charity campaign.

Twitch is a social media video streaming website that’s often used by video gamers.

Higa uses Twitch to stream herself singing, cooking, and sharing her love for conservation.

“I teach people about red tails and falconry,” Higa said.

Thanks to a falconry video she posted that went viral on Reddit, Higa has more than 46,000 followers on her Twitch account.

She decided to ask her cyber followers to celebrate her birthday with a donation to 5 Cities Homeless Coalition, where she volunteers.

In exchange for sharing their videos on Higa’s stream with the help of StreamElements, people donated anything from  $1 to $1,500 at a time. But over the next six hours, the feed erupted.

“I started noticing a variety of donations at really random amounts, $4.43, that sort of thing,” 5 Cities Homeless Coalition Exec. Dir. Jana Nichols said.

Nichols wasn’t even informed by her staff that there would be a fundraising campaign this weekend because, well, no one thought Higa’s Twitch event would bring in that many donations.

“We have people who do fundraising and they get support from their friends and their community, but it’s usually around $500 to $1,000,” Nichols said.

But as the donations flooded the non-profit’s bank account, Nichols broke away from dinner to answer a call from work.

“(The operations manager) explained what Maya had done and how she set this up and what the goal was and it was $1,000,” Nichols remembers. “At that point $17,000 had been raised. And I said, ‘come again?'”

By the fifth hour, the total surpassed $22,000.

“I’m absolutely blown away,” Higa says in her live stream as the donations racks up.

You can see it on Higa’s face, total amazement as complete strangers from around the globe chip in.

“She had all these friends waiting to actually have a birthday party with her but she couldn’t step away because so much good was happening,” Nichols said.

So Nichols rushed out to get Higa a birthday cake and presented it to her at her home in front of the webcam for the thousands of viewers to see.

“It was really special, she cried a little bit, I cried a little bit,” Higa said.

The $32,000 raised from over 650 unique donors will help the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition fund its warming center, which was in jeopardy this coming winter following a longer than expected cold season this past year.

The money will also help with 5CHC’s immediate needs fund, which helps people who are on the brink of homelessness by paying bills, vehicle repairs, rent and food.