GrandPOOBear wants to make one thing very, very clear.
He’s already held several speedrunning events to support the Wings for Life Foundation, Red Bull’s charity of choice dedicated to finding a cure for spinal cord injury. Together, those marathons have raised nearly $100,000 for the organization. But that effort? It literally took a village.
“I really want to emphasize,” says GrandPOOBear, aka David Hunt, streamer, speedrunner, creator of Kaizo Super Mario levels, Red Bull player, and (for now, briefly) former speedrunning record holder, “please, please, please emphasize that it’s definitely not me alone.”
There’s the production team that ensures the events go smoothly, all the streamers who donate their time, energy, and expertise, and a vast collective of viewers who just might be the most generous of all gamers.
Hunt will assemble that community once again on July 31st for yet another charity event supporting Wings for Life. Dubbed “Christmas in July,” it will be a laid-back day of gaming, laughs, and plenty of music from bands he loves. Beyond everyone having a really, really good time, he says, the goal is to simply raise as much money as possible.
Hunt has been fundraising through speedrunning since 2016, and has helped raise millions for organizations like Prevent Cancer Foundation, Doctors Without Borders, and Direct Relief. He first heard of Wings for Life back in 2018 during a conversation about his snowboarding accident.
In 2013, Hunt was hit by an out of control skier. He broke his kneecap, tore his MCL, and fractured his L1 vertebrae. But it was the internal bleeding and infections he suffered that nearly killed him, and he’d long considered his broken back the “smallest of potatoes” of his injuries.
But six months after learning about Wings for Life, Hunt heard that a snowboarding friend of a friend had broken his L1.
“He’s paralyzed now,” says Hunt. “Exact same break as I had. His accident was not as bad as mine for the rest of his body. He just got unlucky, and I got lucky. And it put things into perspective for me how blessed I am.”
Hunt has always known, to some extent, how lucky he is. The accident ended his dream of going pro as a snowboarder, but all that time convalescing on the couch gave him the opportunity to turn his insatiable need for progression and perfection towards a new pursuit--getting really, really good at Super Mario Bros. 3, a game he’s loved since he was six years old. His singular obsession to be very good at things — ”it’s both a blessing and a curse” — led him into streaming, “probably 30 to 40 world records” as a speedrunner, and celebrity status in the community. He likes to say, “Snowboarding took all my money, took all my time, took all my energy, and gaming has just given me all of it back.”
Hunt is not one to dwell on his accident. But the news about his fellow snowboarder cast his good fortune in a new light. Wings for Life became one of his top charities to support.
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But he’s adamant about where the credit for that support should go: To a community of speedrunners known more for collaboration than competition.
“With speedrunning, it’s not necessarily me versus you for the world record, it’s kind of us versus the game and how fast can we get it to go,” he says. “It’s almost like the game is a Formula 1 car and all the players take turns driving, and we give each other tips on how to get better and better.”
World records, he says, aren’t set by a single person, but by the entire group.
“All those collaborative things come together and create a nice community, a generous community. You know what I mean? Very low egos.”
And it’s true. When Hunt gets his friends together with their online communities for Christmas in July, they’ll be hanging out, learning about each other’s games, sharing tricks, listening to new music, and just having a great time. They’ll also be part of something bigger. With every dollar they raise, they get to participate in making an impact. Maybe even changing lives. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.
But that blessing-slash-curse that Hunt has? The obsessive need to achieve that has enabled him to game for a living, but drains him sometimes? He was able to ignore it a bit when he couldn’t travel, couldn’t attend events.
“They got taken from me this year,” he says. “I have former world records in lots of games. But I will tell you right now. I can’t go the rest of the year without at least having one.”