UNT Student Uses Gaming Skills for Good

Michael Mairs and his online alter-ego, 'Smirky' are raising thousands of dollars for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital through gaming.

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Michael Mairs is a rising junior at the University of North Texas. While quarantined on campus, he has been gaming to raise money for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

"Childhood cancer does not shelter in place," Mairs said talking to NBC 5 via FaceTime from his room on the UNT campus. "While we are all quarantined and trying to find something to do, this gives me something to do to give back to the community."

Mairs is using the game 'Toontown' to get donations.

"It's a 3-D wacky cartoon-filled world," Mairs explained. The game has corporate robots, and players arm themselves with gags and jokes to stop them. "Because these corporate people can't take a joke."

Users of the live-streaming platform Twitch know Mairs as 'Smirky.' He uses incentives like giving himself a pie in the face to raise money, but it isn't just fun and games. For Mairs, it's personal.

"It was just a big cancer scare for me at the age of 18," Mairs said talking about a brush with skin cancer. Then last year, his 10-year-old niece Faith was diagnosed with cancer. She's being treated at St. Jude's. "And suddenly this whole initiative became a lot more personal for my family."

"There are children every day that are going through unimaginable hardships that I would never have imagined going through," Mairs said. "St. Jude's makes sure no family, including my own, has to pay a single dollar."

On Friday morning Mairs had raised $15,700 on his fundraising page.

"If you can make a difference by doing something as simple as playing video games while you're in quarantine... anything is possible," Mairs said.

The St. Jude PLAY LIVE fundraiser runs through the end of May.

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