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Gaming for Good

AESA Prep Academy's Esports Program Raises Thousands in Heartfelt Charity Stream Tribute

Feb 15, 2024

In a remarkable display of unity and compassion, AESA Prep Academy's esports program in Austin, Texas, orchestrated a charity stream that not only far exceeded the fundraising goals but also served as a poignant tribute to Head Coach Adam Santos' late daughter. The eight-hour gaming marathon charity stream showcased the transformative power of esports that can go far beyond just competitions, wins, and trophies. 

Coach Adam Santos initiated this extraordinary event to honor the memory of his daughter, Belle Santos, who courageously battled DIPG brain cancer for five months. The heartbreaking loss of Belle inspired Coach Santos to transform their shared love for gaming into a powerful force for good. Having personally experienced the challenges of childhood cancer, Coach Santos chose to fundraise for The Cure Starts Now, an organization that played a crucial role in supporting his family during their difficult journey.  Drawing from his own fundraising efforts for the charity on his personal Twitch channel, he envisioned expanding the concept to involve the esports program at AESA Prep Academy. The idea resonated with the students, and together they embraced the opportunity to utilize their passion for gaming to contribute to a cause that held deep personal significance for Coach Santos and the entire community.

“I had the idea last season; I was telling my students about how I did a charity fundraising stream on my personal Twitch channel, and the idea came together of, 'Man, my students would probably love to do something really similar.'"
Coach Santos with daugher Belle

The community rallied around the cause, transforming a typical gaming event into a powerful endeavor that resonated much further than initially anyone anticipated. With the unwavering support of the school administration, parents, and the local community, for the event, the school premises were transformed into a hub of positivity as the stream kicked off at 3:00 PM and rallied all the way until midnight. Approximately 17 students from the esports team showcased their gaming prowess across several of the team's favorite game titles. What set this stream apart was the clever integration of both modern and retro versions of games, adding a unique twist and keeping viewers engaged throughout the event. Beyond the money being raised, the stream became a meaningful tribute to Belle's resilience and a platform to raise awareness about pediatric brain cancer, touching the hearts of not just the esports program members but the entire school community.

While Coach Santos played a pivotal role in preparing the students for the stream, offering guidance on interacting with the audience and maintaining the overall stream atmosphere, he adopted a hands-off approach during the actual broadcast. This allowed the students to truly shine, owning the experience and connecting with viewers on a personal level. Over the eight-hour stream, the esports program was able to raise over $9,000 for the cancer charity. The fundraising success not only surpassed the initial goal but also prompted the program to envision a grander scale for future iterations. Looking forward, Coach Santos and the students are already planning to make the next charity stream even more extensive, accommodating more participants and aspiring to surpass their previous achievements.

“The kids loved it. It was like a huge thing for them. It was huge for them to see what that's like to use video gaming, use esports for a good cause."
AESA Prep esports members during the charity stream

Beyond the financial success, the charity stream had a profound impact on the recruitment for the esports program. Students who might not have initially been drawn to competitive gaming found a sense of community and purpose in the program after witnessing the positive impact of the charity event.

AESA Prep Academy's esports program has etched a story that stands as a testament to the potential of gaming communities to come together, not just for the thrill of competition but to make a meaningful impact on the world. The charity stream was not merely about raising funds; it was a heartfelt endeavor, using the power of gaming to create awareness, share stories, and build connections that extend far beyond the screen. As esports continues to evolve, AESA Prep Academy sets an inspiring example of the transformative impact it can have on communities and individuals alike.