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Driving to make a difference

Charity and streaming go hand in hand for Rob Merrill, an avid streamer known as "legolicious" in the online gaming community.

Charity and streaming go hand in hand for Rob Merrill, an avid streamer known as "legolicious" in the online gaming community. Even though Rob has no personal connection to kidney disease, he is incredibly committed to helping those who are affected. "It's always great to give back," he said.

That sense of responsibility and empathy comes in part from losing his mom to Lou Gehrig's Disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS) three years ago. Rob noted that during his mom's battle, it was a nonprofit organization that helped "keep her quality-of-life high right to the end." The experience gave him a deep personal affection for nonprofits like AKF and inspired him to do his part to help others in need. With the encouragement of his friend, AKF Director of Community Engagement Martin McNutt, Rob developed a team of streamers and content creators known as the 'Stream Team' to raise funds and awareness for AKF and kidney patients – and in turn, support our communities.

When it came time for Rob to decide what he wanted to do for his latest fundraiser for AKF, it wasn't difficult for him to make the connection between driving and fundraising, and 'Driving for Dollars' was born. For the drive, Rob chose to travel up the west coast of the United States, from San Diego to Bellingham, Washington, and live-stream his journey. The drive took about 5 hours, as Rob completed the trip virtually on American Truck Simulator. He raised $500 for kidney patients, all while taking in gorgeous scenery. "To narrow down a favorite stretch of road would be near impossible, as the entire coastline is just one incredible view after another," he said.

After having such a positive experience, Rob said he "absolutely" plans to hold more driving fundraisers in the future. "It's such a great opportunity to explore the roads and be able to have great conversations with viewers as if they were riding in the truck with me."

Rob also urged people to remember that they don't have to donate large sums of money to make an impact. "A single dollar makes a difference," he said. "There really is no 'not enough' when it comes to being charitable. Giving what you can, when you can, will always be more helpful than waiting for the eventual 'when I can give more.' People need your help now."

To watch Rob's virtual drive, click here.

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Jenni Muns

Jenni Muns is the associate director of communications at the American Kidney Fund.