Steven Spohn passed a goal this week that he’s been chasing for nearly a year. He raised over a million dollars for AbleGamers, a charity that seeks to improve accessibility in games and connects disabled people with peer support and adaptive tech for gaming. Spohn has been its COO for 15 years.
The charity’s mission, he says, is about giving people with disabilities access to “that sense of independence and that feeling of exploration or excitement or relaxation, whatever it is you’re going for, to help you mentally get through the tough times.”
Spohn has multiple progressive illnesses that impact his functioning. He started the fundraising campaign, Spawn Together, in September of last year to celebrate his 40th birthday. He says he hoped that more funds for AbleGamers would enable it to continue its work as he eventually loses more mobility or the ability to talk or type. “I just want to make sure that when I’m not able to do that stuff, that everything’s gonna keep going as well as it can,” he says.
Though Spohn’s goal was a million dollars, he didn’t think he’d actually reach it. “I thought, ‘hey, you know, I’ll raise a couple thousand, maybe $100,000. It’ll be great, we’ll spend some money on hiring a new peer counselor and then we’ll be good,’” he says. “Well, that just kept leading into more and more opportunities.”
In November, streamer Ben “DrLupo” Lupo announced during GlitchCon that Twitch was donating $1 million to AbleGamers. Spohn was ecstatic, but he decided not to count Twitch’s donation toward his personal goal. He wanted to continue gathering smaller amounts at a time through his campaign, rather than only relying on big companies. “I can’t depend on one large corporation to decide to hand over a million bucks every single year,” he says, “there had to be a way to do it where we didn’t have to depend on one CEO saying, ‘you know what, give it to them.’”
Hundreds of streamers helped raise money over the course of the campaign, with Twitch matching donations up to certain amounts. Last week, Kayla “lilsimsie” Sims raised nearly $60,000 during a birthday stream, and Twitch matched $35,000. A few days later, Spohn checked the Spawn Together page and realized the total had surpassed the goal.
“I think the most important thing about Spawn Together,” says Spohn, “was trying to prove a point that if people banded together, they could do a good thing, and really move the needle for a cause together by doing tiny good things all at the same time.”
Spohn says there’s still plenty of work to do. “I’ve definitely grown up over the year and realized that although million dollars is big, it doesn’t leave the organization to run for 20 years on its own.” He says the money will help AbleGamers hire more peer counselors, occupational therapists, and other experts to keep expanding its work.