Before heading downtown for her 21st birthday bar crawl, agricultural communication junior Maya Higa spent six hours streaming on Twitch to raise more than $32,000 for the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition (5CHC).
With the original goal to raise $1,000, Higa broadcasted from 3 p.m. until after 9 p.m. Friday, May 24 while her friends gathered in her home to celebrate.
“Donations kept coming in, and I [wanted to be] there because it was still happening,” Higa said.
Higa told her more than 60,000 followers that if they wanted to post videos for her to watch live during the stream, it would cost 20 cents per second.
Higa rose to fame on Twitch after a falconry video she streamed went viral. Known as mayahiga in the Twitch world, Higa originally used the platform as a way of sharing her singing, cooking and conservation education videos.
5CHC Executive Director Janna Nichols described the stream as making a world of difference and changing lives.
Nichols said she knew nothing about the fundraiser until around 7 p.m. Friday, when she got a phone call from the 5CHC’s operation manager saying they had already raised $17,000.
“I was checking my emails [that afternoon] and noticed some odd donations coming in for a PayPal account, for weird donation amounts like $4.33 or $6.22,” Nichols said.
When she heard about the charity stream, Nichols had her son-in-law download and sign-up for Twitch so she and her family could watch Higa online together.
“I just said, ‘Say what?’” Nichols said. “Who knew that community even existed out there?”
When watching Higa online, Nichols said she realized she needed to do something in return. She texted her a few times thanking her but said she thought it was not enough.
“[Higa was] delaying her personal birthday party with all these friends waiting to take her out, but she [could not] get off air,” Nichols said. “So we ran over to Madonna Inn and bought one of the last cakes they had in the case.”
Nichols sped over to Higa’s home during the stream to give her the pink champagne cake and thank her for what she had done for the coalition.
Higa had been volunteering with the 5CHC for three years. She works with the “Warming Center,” a program helping the homeless during the winter in colder weather.
In mid-June, Higa said she plans to do another charity livestream for her family in the Bay Area. Her parents own a center for special needs children to interact with animals, so she said she would like to raise money for them as well.