Jul. 23—DANVILLE — Brandon Conaway and content creator and gamer DGR Dave spent Friday morning playing Minecraft in Conaway's room at Geisinger Janet Weis Children's Hospital.
DGR Dave, of the Altoona area, was recognized on Friday for raising more than $80,000 for Starlight Children's Foundation, which funded the gaming station that Brandon and DGR Dave used in his room. A frequent patient of the hospital, Brandon and his mother, Heather Conaway, of Port Matilda, said they spend more time in the hospital than at home.
"Games like this make long hospital stays easier to endure," said Heather Conaway. "It gives us something to do and a distraction from what we're going through."
Brandon, who is total parenteral nutrition (TPN) dependent due to a faulty gastrointestinal system, likes to play Minecraft, Monster Jam and Fortnight.
"Playing video games makes the stay quick and makes the days go easier," said Brandon.
DGR Dave is a streamer who mainly plays Nintendo and Mario-themed games. He has nearly 600,000 subscribers on YouTube and nearly 150,000 followers on Twitch.
He raised more than $80,000 for Starlight Children's Foundation through the support of his online community during a Starlight streaming event in December. Starlight also presented DGR Dave with a special award during the ceremony, giving him the Content Creator of the Year Award.
In March, the foundation funded two Starlight Gaming Stations for Geisinger Janet Weis Children's Hospital and other children's hospitals outside the area, thanks to DGR Dave's efforts. The gaming stations are designed to roll anywhere in the hospital, allowing patients in-room entertainment and distractions during hospital stays.
"Often feeling scared and alone, hospital kids miss out on the best parts of being a kid," said Devan Tozzo, the Stream for Starlight Community Engagement coordinator.
DGR Dave has a special connection to Geisinger Janet Weis Children's Hospital. His wife, Amanda, had emergency surgery at the hospital that saved her life when she was a teenager.
DGR Dave's goal was $25,000 over 12 days of streaming, but he reached the goal on the first day. He ended up streaming for the whole month of December and raising more than $80,000. To encourage donations, he drank a cocktail of eggnog and Pepto Bismol, dyed his hair red, watched movies he hated, made Christmas ornaments for viewers and a White Elephant giveaway.
"We depend on generous supporters like DGR Dave who leverage their platform to do good," said Tozzo. "From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your support."
DGR Dave said he is still in shock by the generosity of everyone involved.
"This is more than just a me thing," he said. "It was a team of people who not only set up the event but every single individual who donated $1 up to over $1,000. There are not enough thank you's in this world. I have a passion to help with kids, especially with my wife."
He said it brings him joy to know he is helping in some capacity.
"Kids are important, kids are our future," he said. "They deserve to be happy."
To this day, DGR Dave is the top fundraiser for Starlight, said Tozzo.
Starlight partners with more than 800 hospitals around the United States. Its mission is to deliver happiness to seriously ill kids and their families because happy kids heal faster, said Tozzo.
Glenn Bernius, the director of philanthropy for Janet Weis Children's Hospital, said the hospital treats 160,000 pediatric patients a year.
"We want to do everything we can to care and help children who are receiving care, to have fun things to take their minds off their treatment, to make it feel a little bit more like home," said Bernius. "Our kids love to have that gaming."