A few weeks ago, Facebook Gaming creator Josh “DiMez” DiMezza was wrapping up a charity livestream with St.Jude Children’s Research Hospital in New York. Just shy of the $15K goal for the event—the total stood at $13,609—DiMezza was thanking his viewers for tuning in when his jaw suddenly dropped; a viewer had slipped in a last-minute donation taking the grand total to $15,109. The DiMez Gaming community had achieved its goal for St. Jude’s in about 90 minutes.
“That just gave me a surreal type of vibe,” says DiMezza shortly before ending the stream. “I am so thankful for this.” As a cancer survivor himself, DiMezza’s work with Facebook Gaming and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital is part of a deeply personal mission to give back and help young people affected by cancer. “I was diagnosed at 19,” says DiMezza. “I know how it feels to be in that situation, whether it’s because of finances or having family go through the process.”
DiMezza says that video games, and the broader gaming community, helped him get through his ordeal with cancer, which included a gauntlet of hospital visits and 25 rounds of chemotherapy. “Gaming gave me a great place to communicate with other people and friends while I was sick,” he explains. “It also allows you to feel accomplished without burning yourself out physically.” Raising money for organizations like St. Jude during charity livestreams is the perfect way for a lifelong gamer like DiMezza to marry his passions and personal struggles for the benefit of kids going through similar circumstances.
DiMezza has been playing games since his youth. He recounts gaming sessions with his father as some of his favorite memories. “I played N64 with my dad,” he says. “We played Pac-Man, Galaga, and Super Mario 64. Since then, gaming has always been a significant part of my life.” But he wasn’t always a professional streamer. Before his work with Facebook Gaming, DiMezza spent the better part of a decade delivering pizzas and training as a bodybuilder.
After his diagnosis, DiMezza kept physically active, and he kept playing. In fact, he credits working out and playing games equally as pillars of his recovery. “I may have overdone it at times, but it kept me motivated and strong,” says DiMezza. “Gaming really is the key, though. It helped me focus on learning new things.”
Facebook Gaming started experimenting with charity livestreaming tools more than a year ago with a small group of gaming creators. During this time, the group raised over $180K for several different charities. The program officially launched last month, enabling gaming creators to select causes for viewers to support, set donation goals, and share donation alerts within a livestream video. Gaming creators can choose from the full list of charities available for fundraisers in their given region, and people can donate while watching a livestream.
To many, playing video games has always been about more than simply having fun. For DiMezza, it’s also about focus, inner strength, and a genuine sense of belonging. “Sometimes I don’t know why they chose me,” he says. “My community isn’t there because I’m a pro player, but for some reason, we’ve built those connections.”
There’s no greater testament to the strength of DiMezza’s own gaming community than their recent triumph raising funds for children battling cancer. It’s a battle he knows all too well and is dedicating himself to supporting those in need and giving back through the power of gaming.
“It’s OK to feel angry, sad, frustrated, and exhausted,” says DiMezza. “I’ve been there, and I get it. Life can give you a terrible hand, but it can also give you the biggest blessings. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that journey.”