JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The donors who support Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) and its mission to honor and empower Wounded Warriors come from all walks of life. Most recently, a group of video game streaming friends from PoonGoonTV, a channel on YouTube, embarked on a 24-hour gaming marathon to raise awareness and funds for those WWP serves.“Video game streaming has become a major form of entertainment, and it’s something me and my friends are very new to,” said Justin Oren, the channel founder. “We’ve only been doing this for four months and wanted to do something to make a difference, so we decided to raise some money for a charity.”
Justin’s channel has a small, tight-knit community that comes together over their shared love of gaming – and according to Justin, quite a few of them are veterans as well.
“A surprisingly large number of people who watch our stream are overseas or deployed to the Middle East,” Justin said. “That was a big reason we chose Wounded Warrior Project to be our donation recipient. I’m a young guy, and I think a lot of people my age don’t understand what veterans fought and struggled for, and that’s not right. These are honorable men and women who did something good and noble, defending our country. And some of those people need help. I looked to the charity that would help them and let them not be forgotten.”
WWP programs assist injured veterans with mental health, physical health and wellness, career and benefits counseling, long-term care for the most seriously wounded, and connecting warriors with one another and their communities. This is especially important, as isolation is one of the most significant struggles wounded warriors deal with after serving their country. It can be difficult knowing how to overcome that challenge and rekindle bonds similar to those formed in the military.
Justin believes this is why veterans have begun to find a home in his channel and other game streamers like him.
“Some veterans share their stories sometimes,” Justin said. “There’s one veteran who follows our channel – from what I’ve seen with his interactions, he’s overseas – and these streams are a chance for him to interact with others and make connections from where he is.”
WWP warriors have had similar chances to connect and form bonds through video gaming. Recently, WWP hosted an event at one of its offices in Pittsburgh with Stack-Up, a charity organization that brings veterans and civilian supporters together through a shared love of video gaming.
“I think there’s a certain familiarity with gaming,” Justin said. “When they served overseas, or even here at home, veterans enjoyed video games as part of their down time to relax. It’s a connection they have to their service, and to each other. It reminds them of the good times on the base in their down time. I think the streams are popular because these veterans are playing vicariously through us.”
When his 24-hour charity live stream was over, Justin exceeded his wildest expectations.
“I was anxious because I didn’t want to let anyone down, so we set a modest goal of $500,” Justin said. “We were blown away by how generous people were as they popped in and out of the stream during the marathon. The stream raised over $3,000 for Wounded Warrior Project, and we were thrilled to be able to support them with what we raised. I know this will help someone in a serious way, and I hope to do it again.”
To check out the PoonGoon squad, visit their Twitch and YouTube pages. And to learn more about how WWP’s programs and services connect, serve, and empower wounded warriors, visit newsroom.woundedwarriorproject.org/.