How Sea of Thieves pirates teamed up with the Parkinson’s Foundation

The Sea of Thieves community is full of unexpected delights, from tense sloop races to impromptu trivia nights on deck. While pirates are usually known for their avarice and greed, a group of notable players realized they could combine their existing events with a higher purpose. Thanks to a partnership between a crew of Sea of Thieves fans and the Parkinson’s Foundation, the nonprofit has made big strides in the streaming space — and it’s proving to be full of opportunity for the charity and its cause.

Dread Pirate Doug and his production team are known in the Sea of Thieves community for organizing and orchestrating events like the Race of Legends, an Amazing Race-style competition where players take their ships around the map and complete strange, difficult, and esoteric challenges. The Race of Legends and its associated circuit has never been a day job for Doug and his crew, but it has proven to be a successful venture with regular and creative challenges for pirates to pursue. A life event inspired Doug to use his platform to try and do some good.

“Last year, my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and it hit me and my family pretty hard,” says Doug. “That’s when we started raising money for the Parkinson’s Foundation. We did several events called Clash for a Cause, where we did a day of Sea of Thieves events back-to-back. People were extremely generous, and we raised over $30,000 in all of those different events.”

After the success of these events, the Parkinson’s Foundation, which funds research and care for those living with Parkinson’s disease, realized streaming was a fruitful new fundraising opportunity.

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“We do new and nontraditional fundraising, including fitness or endurance-related fundraising, or what we call DIY — do-it-yourself fundraising, where people come up with their own events and ideas and we help them get it off the ground,” says Zachary Orner, national manager of fundraising events at the Parkinson’s Foundation. Doug started a conversation with the nonprofit, which expressed interest in collaboration, but Orner says the Parkinson’s Foundation quickly realized that the streaming world was both full of potential and incredibly complex. However, they were prepared thanks to a streamer on staff.

“I started streaming about three or four years ago. At first, I just streamed, but I started to get really into charity streaming — I liked putting events together, bringing the community together,” says Michelle Scott, streaming coordinator for the Parkinson’s Foundation. Her history includes Call of Duty, Apex Legends, and of course Sea of Thieves. The Parkinson’s Foundation allowed her to use her passion for a day job, and her connections to gamers like Doug proved to be a valuable asset. “I started talking to [Doug] and then reached out to a couple of other people, and we started on the ground finding those content creators who have a love of raising money for charity.”

Doug connected with the Parkinson’s Foundation, and the initiative has gone further than a single charity stream. Now, the Foundation maintains a stream team called the Parkinson’s Champions and raises funds for events on Twitch. The organization’s first event in December attracted over 4,000 viewers and raised over $16,000 for the cause.

Orner predicts other charities will turn to streaming as a fundraising source. We’ve already seen similar stories, like the animal rescue shelters who used Stray to raise money for real-world stray cats. The Parkinson’s Foundation is one of the first charities to grow substantial roots in streaming, and it has helped create an additional space without the limitations of brick-and-mortar institutions or charity races to support people with Parkinson’s and their loved ones.

“90,000 people, or more, are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year,” says Orner. “So there’s just going to be more gamers and streamers out there who are going to become part of this community, and if we can have a space for them, we’re really excited about that.”