Big hearts, tired feet: Center Stage Just Dance-a-thon starring Littlesiha aims to raise $100,000 for St. Jude

The dance-a-thon is part of St. Jude PLAY LIVE, a global fundraising campaign in which gamers play their favorite games on streaming platforms, and viewers are able to donate to St. Jude in real time.

It all began with a purple hoodie.

That’s how Avery — you may know her as Littlesiha, Twitch streamer and star player of the Just Dance video game — got involved with supporting the kids of St. Jude in 2016.

Littlesiha

“I was on Twitter and saw that if you raised $500 for St. Jude, they’d send you a purple hoodie,” she said. “I wanted that hoodie. I don’t think I have ever felt a stronger need for a piece of apparel in my life.”

That purple hoodie was pretty cool, but a visit to the St. Jude campus the next year touched Avery’s heart. She’s now raised more than $100,000 for St. Jude — and is a major force behind the Center Stage Just Dance-a-thon, a four-day, 80-hour, 33-dancer fundraiser starting Thursday with a goal of another $100,000 for St. Jude.

“Getting to take a tour of the hospital, serve dinner to the kids, visit the Target House and see the entire campus was just life-changing,” Avery said. “You never really realize how much donations matter until you see the work up close.

“I give my hoodies away now.”

The dance-a-thon is part of St. Jude PLAY LIVE, a global fundraising campaign in which gamers play their favorite games on streaming platforms, and viewers are able to donate to St. Jude in real time. The program has raised $1 million this year faster than ever. Total fundraising has topped $24 million since the program began in 2015.

If you’re of a certain generation, if you’ve ever bemoaned the time your kids or grandkids spend on video games, this might be the time to stop and acknowledge the world of good today’s gamers are doing.

“My parents used to hate how often I was playing games on the computer as a kid, but now it’s my job,” said Avery, a pioneer in making dancing an accepted sub-genre of streaming.

“I only started streaming to get better at dancing,” she said. “At the time, I just wanted to get in shape.”

Yes, she dances for a living — live-streaming a game called Just Dance, where players are scored based on how well they can mimic the moves of the dancer on the screen.

Avery has more than 10,000 active subscribers on the streaming platform Twitch — and has the sway with her followers to raise $100,000-plus, and counting, for St. Jude.

What began with a purple hoodie is now a big-hearted movement that grows and grows.

“Charity and streaming are a natural fit,” said AudaStreams, a member of Avery’s Center Stage team. “I believe every streamer knows that they wouldn’t be where they are without the support of others, and so it feels right to give back.”

Auda is handling logistics for the dance-a-thon, which is more like juggling than dancing — imagine trying to coordinate the schedules of 33 dancers from around the world to produce an event that, at 80 hours, is more than double last year’s version.

She said she had little experience with St. Jude before working on last year’s dance-a-thon, “but listening to Avery talk about her experiences at the hospital during her visit really inspired me.

“It was clear that she felt strongly about St. Jude and the work they did, and her passion was contagious.”

Avery — Littlesiha — will be the last dancer. And yes, if you’re wondering, she says it feels different to dance for a cause like St. Jude.

“When I’m performing normally, I usually stop when I start feeling exhausted or sore,” she said. “When it comes to fundraising for St. Jude, there’s more people involved than just me. There are kids fighting for their life…

“I’m so fortunate to not just be healthy, but to have a platform where I can help those who need it. So when I’m dancing for St. Jude, I have no issue with dancing a little bit longer, dancing blindfolded, dancing in silly costumes.

“Whatever it takes.”

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