DrLupo’s third annual Build Against Cancer livestream to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital raised $2.3 million for the gaming professional’s favorite cause — and made the science behind it cool.
That last part in the 24-hour fundraiser on the streaming platform Twitch was thanks to the presence of, well, the real Dr. Lupo.
And no, that’s not his alter ego. That’s St. Jude’s own Marybeth Lupo, PhD, a researcher with a knack for making the complicated work of treating cancer and seeking cures relatable and compelling.
“This is kind of a crazy thing,” he said, early in the stream. “At St. Jude, amongst all the glorious, wonderful researchers, the wonderful human beings that do a lot of really good work, there happens to be a person named Dr. Lupo. I’m not even kidding.
“Well, she and I had an opportunity to sit down and have a conversation.”
When DrLupo met Dr. Lupo in a virtual conversation, a video of which was featured during the stream, they bonded almost instantly — not just over the coincidence of their names or even their shared ties to St. Jude.
Turns out the cause had won their hearts in virtually the same way. For both, it happened on a hospital tour as a young patient came rolling by in that St. Jude symbol of hope on wheels, a little red wagon, pulled by a parent.
“I forever remember that moment,” he said. “It’s just surreal. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.”
Then she described her own “red wagon moment.”
“I was here for a symposium,” she said. “It was a graduate student meeting. And we were getting a tour. And I saw a little girl, maybe 1-and-a-half, sitting in the back of a red wagon. And she made eye contact and she waved at me. I was like, this is where I’m coming. This is where I need to be.”
When their talk turned scientific, Dr. Lupo kept that same human touch. She talked in analogies, not jargon. At one point, she showed a picture of an elaborate microscope that prompted DrLupo to say, “I thought my stuff was fancy, but you’ve got something totally different going on here.”
When DrLupo asked how long she’d been in school, Dr. Lupo quipped, “I think I got to the 24th grade.”
Later in the stream — which was packed with gaming, activities and celebrity appearances — Dr. Lupo returned for another conversation with her near namesake. They talked about St. Jude some more, and her path there, to what she called the most incredible place she’s ever worked.
They talked about the community of gamers who have embraced the mission and model of St. Jude. And they talked about video games — Mario Party was one of her old favorites — and how gaming brings people together, crossing all walks of life, making connections and making a difference.
“I guarantee you there are people that are watching this stream right now from everywhere,” he said. “And that’s important, too, because not only do you have the connection of gaming between all these people that are watching across all these different locations, all these different age groups, everybody. You also have, on the St. Jude side of things, a cause that affects the same number of people. It is a global community effort of people coming together to try and be part of something and have a positive impact on the world.”
In the end, it was a reminder that the cause of St. Jude takes everyone — the scientists and the streamers, those who seek the cures and those who lead the fundraisers — to save the lives of the kids inside those little red wagons.