HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — People from around the world, including West Michigan, are coming together to support Australia.
The island country is in the middle of one of its worst bushfires on record, killing nearly two dozen people and billions of animals as the flames spread throughout the countryside.
“It’s so hard to describe because you can’t really imagine it being so huge and so scary,” Dean Thomas of Townsville, Australia told News 8. “I can’t even imagine what it would’ve been like for people who have had to be directly on the front, fighting the flames.”
Thomas is a member of the country’s security force. When he’s not working, he’s a gamer. The group he is a part of, TSB Gamers, is global. He and other Australian gamers reached out to the group for help.
“Our gaming group is often looked as being silly or nerdish or something like that and we’ve really tried to develop it into something much more than that,” Thomas said. “That’s why we often call ourselves a community rather than a gaming group or a clan. We help each other.”
Thomas recognized a need since Australian volunteer firefighters are often ill-equipped to fight the raging bushfires.
“A lot of them are lacking just basic protection equipment, especially like a breathing apparatus,” Thomas said. “Some of them are even missing their hoses and generators and things like that.”
Thomas took their plea to the group who decided it would be best to stream some of their gameplay to a website called Twitch, which gives viewers a front seat to live gameplay.
Thomas and TSB Gamers asked those viewers to donate to another website, GoFundMe, and the result was more than Thomas could have imagined.
“The generosity of not only our members but complete strangers were mind-boggling and absolutely heartwarming something that just blew us away here,” Thomas said. “The effort and the appreciation cannot be told enough.”
Another gamer, a West Michigan native known by his fellow gamers as “Outcast,” is also a member of TSB Gamers. He heard of the charity streaming event and decided to help.
Outcast’s real name is Jordan Ledford and he works on WOOD TV8’s production crew.
“I had actually never seen Thomas’s face before now,” Ledford said. “Gamers don’t need a face to feel empathy. Gamers will hear, ‘oh so and so is in need.’ Well, they only have a name to put next to that. Since we’ve never met them in person, they’ve only had conversations in video games, and are willing to raise money for people who are in need like that. I think that puts gamers in a very different light then how society will view them.”
The GoFundMe page has now raised over $3,000. While Thomas is grateful, he hopes to raise even more because the fire has not yet shown signs of slowing any time soon.
“We just don’t know when it’s going to end and with 18 people lost so far, a couple of firefighters even. It’s pretty scary because we haven’t had something like this for many years,” Thomas said. “Being able to share information and talk to people across the world is really the key and you can really see some great things come about when things like the GoFundMe allows people to step up and help our friends and neighbors thousands and thousands of miles away.”