After losing a match at a video-game tournament last month, player Shay "Young Kiv" Kivlen went back to his hotel room in Jacksonville, Florida, to watch his best friend Elijah "Trueboy" Clayton compete in the Madden '19 Southeastern Qualifier.
While watching Clayton, 22, play via the online streaming service Twitch, Kivlen heard the pop of gunshots —then screams.
"I thought someone was robbing the place," Kivlen, 21, said on Sunday of the Jacksonville Landing, a collection of restaurants and shops along the St. Johns River, where the shooting happened.
Kivlen eventually got one of his friends at the tournament on the phone, who said he was hiding in the bathroom with 30 other Madden players. His friend was crying, Kivlen said, as he explained he thought Clayton was dead.
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Since Clayton and another player, Taylor Robertson, were killed by a disgruntled gamer in the shooting that injured 11 others, Kivlen, a competitive Madden player, hasn't touched his Playstation console.
"I haven't played Madden at all. I haven't played video games. My PS4 is still in my suitcase, and I haven't unpacked it or anything like that," he said. "Its been tough."
But on Monday, Kivlen will pick up his controller once again in an effort to help the families who lost members in the Aug. 26 shooting.
With help from Cameron Kasky, an organizer of the "March For Our Lives" movement and a Parkland shooting survivor, Kivlen will square off against a "real" football player —Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans — in a live stream of EA Sports' "Madden NFL 19" to raise money for the Jacksonville Fallen Gamers Fund, which has already taken in nearly $4,000 as of Sunday afternoon.
Kivlen, Evans and Kasky are aiming to raise an additional $25,000 for the fund.
Kasky said he reached out to Kivlen shortly after the shooting to ask how he could help, eventually coming up with the idea for a live stream of Madden in homage to the game Kivlen's fallen friends loved so much.
"It literally and figuratively hit me very close to home, but I was also able to look back at what happened at my school and say the best thing we could do was offer help any way we can," Kasky said.
Kasky said getting Evans on board was just a matter of getting their offer in front of him. Once he saw what they were doing, Kasky said, he immediately agreed.
"Mike Evans is a great guy and when we asked if he could help he said, 'When do I start?'" Kasky said. "Mike is a very well renowned player and Shay will rip him to shreds. He a good sportsman."
Kivlen said he has struggled in the days since the shooting, saying he's experienced a range of emotions from sadness to anger to confusion. His focus now, he said, is making sure he helps the families of his friends.
"Anything I can do to try to support the families, I'm wiling to do. I was close to him, but I couldn't even imagine what they're going through," Kivlen said of Clayton.
The stream will be hosted on Tiltify in partnership with Twitch on Monday.