Pittsburgh-created fundraiser raises $1 million in donations for gamers with disabilities | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh-created fundraiser raises $1 million in donations for gamers with disabilities

click to enlarge Steven Spohn at home - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Steven Spohn at home
For Steven Spohn’s 40th birthday in September 2020, his goal was to raise $1 million in funding towards gaming equipment and consultation to those who are disabled. Just under a year later, his goal was completed.

Spohn, a lifelong Pittsburgher and the COO of The AbleGamers Charity, announced on Aug. 16 that his fundraising initiative “SpawnTogether” reached his goal of $1 million through donations. The AbleGamers Charity is a nonprofit organization and charity that emphasizes the power of video games to help decrease the economic and social isolation of those with disabilities.

"I am absolutely floored by the outpouring of love and support. When I set out on this journey, I thought we would raise a few thousand dollars,” Spohn said in a press release. “I massively underestimated the groundswell of support this amazing community has for things that matter to them the most. Finally, we are at a point where people truly believe everyone should be able to play."

When Spohn launched SpawnTogether in September 2020, it raised $300,000 in the first week. Through various fundraising events, gaming streams, and influencer and celebrity support, the initiative was able to raise $1 million in just 11 months. SpawnTogether is part of The AbleGamers Charity and has a vision to help disabled people get the vital equipment they need to take part in gaming. Spohn, a gamer himself, has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which causes a person’s muscles to degenerate over time, or as he described it to Pittsburgh City Paper in 2019: “It slowly takes away my abilities to do anything.”

As Spohn entered his 20s, he began finding workarounds to play video games. Because his disability prevented him from reaching a keyboard, he started using a tarter scraper tool — the kind used by dentists — to hit the buttons. Eventually, Spohn started looking for other games and new tools to play them.

Popular gaming sites like Twitch and GameSpot participated in his SpawnTogether initiative. For every streamer on Twitch that donated to the fundraiser, the streaming site would match the donation. As for GameSpot, an informational website regarding video games, they donated $115,000.

Locally, the Pittsburgh Penguins helped the fundraising initiative gain exposure to those outside of the gaming community through extensive PR support.

Although this began as a goal for his 40th birthday, Spohn said the fundraising event is going to be turned into an annual event, trying to raise $1 million each year.

“People believe in the mission of AbleGamers and the importance of supporting disabled gamers,” Spohn said. “I'm not doing this alone. I'm bringing some of my most trusted friends who can keep this going even after SMA finally gets me. When that happens, I don't want people to mourn and be sad, I want them to celebrate and keep supporting people with disabilities for decades to come.”

A link for the SpawnTogether fundraiser can be found at tiltify.com/ablegamers-charity/spawn-together.

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