When Timmy Nelson isn’t working as a Digital Design Specialist for the Alumni Relations Office at Wayne State University, he enjoys playing video games, drawing, and entertaining. These interests are at the heart of his Twitch liveteam, trueTIMfoolery, which he uses to raise money for local children’s hospitals through the nonprofit organization Extra Life.
Since he started streaming in 2019, Nelson and his team of “crazy people” have raised more than $17,000 by playing video games and board games – and participating in a variety of incentives aimed at earn extra money.
“Extra Life lets me do the things I really love, but also teaches people that philanthropy can be a hobby,” Nelson said. “You don’t have to be a Fortune 500 CEO giving people all that money. Every dollar counts. Anyone can do it.
Nelson’s streams are very light-hearted and meant to entertain viewers. Viewers, for their part, feel good about making a donation because they know that the money raised goes to help children and their families. In fact, Nelson got a close look at where the money he raises is going when he visited the children’s hospital for the first time earlier this year.
“I was lucky enough to visit the hospital this year and meet one of the miracle children – her name was Mila,” said Nelson, who hasn’t been able to visit the hospital for the past few years. due to COVID-19 restrictions. “She spent over 130 days in the NICU when she was born, and there was a chance she wouldn’t make it. Now she’s a happy, healthy seven-year-old girl. She plays playing the piano, playing video games and running around. The first thing she did was come up to me, give me a hug and ask me if I play the piano. I didn’t tell her that I did. at first – I let her play for a bit, then I played a song and her eyes lit up. We became best friends at that point.
“She was laughing and dancing, and you can just tell she has the whole world in front of her now,” Nelson added. “I know that the money I helped raise went to fund some of his treatment and medical bills. I met his family, and they are simply the nicest people in the world. To see that my money and the money that my community raises has a direct impact on someone is amazing. And without Extra Life’s money, many things might not be possible.
Nelson initially got involved with Extra Life by setting up a 24-hour stream for the Extra Life Game Day Marathon, which takes place on the first Saturday of every November. He set himself the goal of raising $1,000 in his first year, and through his creative marketing strategy, he raised that amount before he even got to game day.
“I committed to getting my first tattoo if we raised $1,000, and we surpassed that before we even got to November,” Nelson said.
His success came, in large part, from the incentives he offered before the event – things like custom designs (he’s a talented artist) or entries into raffles for different prizes.
On game day, there were even more incentives to donate – dons would see Nelson eat mystery-flavored candy (flavors ranging from buttery popcorn to vomit) or have him do push-ups on the spot, even though he was in the middle of a video game contest.
“When we put that together, it’s like a mini telethon,” Nelson said. “A lot of people don’t realize all the planning that goes into it. It might just be someone sitting there and playing games for 24 hours, but I know I’m drawing on the energy of my friends, family and supporters to build this day. We do things to entertain people watching, but it’s also a great way to raise money. Last year a friend of ours brought a bunch of temporary tattoos, so we said if you donate we’ll put one in, and I ended up with a bunch all over me. And they weren’t small – I had a giant unicorn on my face. We all have different ways to create incentives and encourage viewers to donate.
Around the same time Nelson decided to become an Extra Lifer, he also created his Twitch stream, which he typically uses twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday nights. These sessions allow her to raise funds for Extra Life throughout the year.
“I have a weekly Dungeons and Dragons session through which I constantly promote Extra Life,” Nelson said. “And then the other broadcast night of the week – or sometimes we play on the weekends as well – we play video games, and we could do something like ‘donate and we’ll do a Ghost hot sauce shot. Pepper” or something. All of these incentives are built around the idea that, yeah, I’m in pain or I’m doing the thing to make you laugh or bring you a smile, but it’s all for Extra Life and the child support.
Nelson has built a community of followers on Twitch and also has his own Discord channel. He even started designing and selling trueTIMfoolery products. He designs his own logos, which are available on everything from T-shirts and hats to blankets, mugs and mouse pads.
“You can order a cozy blanket that literally has a giant picture of my face on it,” Nelson said. “Everything in my merchandise store has an extra $5 built into the cost that I donate to Extra Life. The idea is that every product you buy supports me and helps me get things done, but it also counts as a $5 donation to Extra Life. It’s another way to encourage people to wear my products and get exposure, build community, but also support children’s hospitals.
Nelson calls members of his community “fools,” and that includes his friends and family. Nelson’s wife, Paolina Barker, and brother, Philip Nelson, are part of his inner circle who appear on streams and help out behind the scenes.
“I couldn’t do it without them,” Nelson said. “And they’re always thinking of fun new ways to stress me out and make sure chaos ensues. The more people laugh, the more they give – and nothing is funnier than a little mayhem.
To follow Nelson’s progress as he aims to increase his overall money to over $20,000, visit his Extra Life page.