by Matt Durr

It’s not uncommon for Joey DeGrandis to spend an entire weekend playing his favorite video game “Runescape,” while connecting with friends and followers online.

On a good day around 300 people will watch the 21-year-old DeGrandis while he plays the game and provides commentary to the action via an online broadcasting tool called “Twitch.”

It’s been a work in progress to build an audience large enough to make a name for himself in the gaming community. But when DeGrandis secured his 3,000th follower last month, he decided the audience was finally large enough to begin a project he had in mind for a long time.

Through the course of an 18-hour gaming session, DeGrandis raised $1,230 that was given to an Ypsilanti pizza delivery driver as a tip just in time for the Christmas season.

“I’ve been streaming for a few months and it’s something I’ve been enjoying,” DeGrandis said. “I always wanted to do something like that, I just never had the means to.

“Once I started streaming to a decent amount of viewers, I finally had the means to do it.”

The plan was simple, DeGrandis accepted donations during the marathon session to be given to a driver who could use the money. DeGrandis filmed the whole thing and broadcast it online so his followers could see how the event unfolded.

He called the Jet’s Pizza located at 1298 Anna J Stepp Rd., just off of Huron Street in Ypsilanti and told the manager about his plan. He asked the manager to send someone who could use the help.

DeGrandis said he chose a pizza delivery driver because he always respected the work they do and thinks they don’t get enough credit for it.

The video of DeGrandis giving a check for $630 to driver Charlie McCormick has garnered around 200,000 page views through various video-sharing websites like YouTube. However, the total tip ended up being $1,230 as viewers kept donating once they heard McCormick’s story via the stream.

Around 3,000 people ended up watching his stream while he was raising money, according to DeGrandis.

“There was tons of positive feedback,” DeGrandis said. “It really resonated throughout the entire community. We could not have asked for a better candidate for the whole thing.”

Since the story of the fundraiser has made the rounds, DeGrandis said he has run into McCormick a couple of times.

“Every time I see him, he seems like the happiest guy in the world. It does seem like it truly changed his life,” DeGrandis said.

Part of the reason why the story resonated with viewers so much centered around a personal tragedy McCormick talked about. Since his mother had passed away in September, McCormick and his family were not going to do much to celebrate Christmas.

“He was incredibly taken aback by that. You could tell that he was very shook up by it,” DeGrandis said. “Once he sat down and started telling his story, that’s when more and more money came in.”

Because the family was still dealing with the loss, the holiday didn’t seem as important as usual.

“That’s when we kind of knew it was going to be really impactful and would make a difference,” DeGrandis said.

After receiving the money McCormick and his family realized they had to make the holiday count and celebrate it as best they could.

“I knew whoever did show up it would make at least their entire month, maybe the year, but I had no idea it would have that much of an impact,” DeGrandis said.

DeGrandis did not know McCormick would be the driver who showed up at his house, but admits he knew McCormick from their days as classmates at Ypsilanti Lincoln High School. While he knew McCormick, DeGrandis said they hung out with different groups of people.

Still, some people questioned the authenticity of the event. DeGrandis said he saw some of the negative comments, and says he just ignores them because he and the people who donated know the money went to a worthy candidate.

“There’s always going to be those kind of people…you can’t really focus too hard on YouTube comments because they’re usually insane,” DeGrandis said.

DeGrandis said he is planning on organizing similar efforts in the future, but will likely change up some of the ways it’s done to ensure people stay interested in donating and to help other people who could use financial help.

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