Being a parent is one of the most rewarding things a person can do. Only parents truly experience the joy of seeing a child grow up and be their own person, and rightly so.
Along the way, there are bound to be trials and tribulations for anyone, but Craig Owen and his family have had more than their fair share. His son, 10-year-old Finley Owen, was born with cerebral palsy and has been working since he was very young to keep it in check. With that work has come many, many hardships.
But one unexpectedly bright light in the Owens’ family story has been Craig’s stream. Through gaming, Finley’s received the warm support of the Fortnite community as he works on his cerebral palsy.
And so, here’s the story of how video games helped the Owen family deal with Finley’s cerebral palsy.
Video games had always been involved in the life of 31-year-old Craig Owen, better known as “KingoCraigoTV” or “Craigo” on his social media accounts. Growing up with his mom, Craigo remembers his first video game experience: playing Mario Kart on his friend’s Super Nintendo.
“I used to ring him up all the time and go and knock on his house [to] play some Mario Kart,” Craigo recalls. And while Mario Kart was what got him initially interested in video games, Craigo says Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) on the Xbox 360 was what got him hooked into playing online multiplayer games.
Craigo says that all he ever played was Search and Destroy: his preferred class was a UMP 45 with the FMJ attachment and a throwing knife and stun grenades. Looking back, he says just talking about MW2 brings a smile to his face and recalls back happy memories — memories of before he worked full time.
Because he’s a “Kingsman” in the British Army, Craig hasn’t been able to spend time gaming or with his family. Craigo also had to go to the north of the UK for work while his family – his two young boys, Finley and Frankie, and his fiancee Louise – stayed in Manchester.
This experience was made even more difficult because Craigo’s eldest son, Finley, has cerebral palsy (CP). CP is a group of disorders caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain. As a result, CP affects a person’s ability to control their muscles, and while symptoms can vary from person to person, all people with CP have issues with movement and posture.
Finley was lucky enough to be diagnosed with CP when he was young thanks to Louise’s keen eye. She noticed that Finley hadn’t hit certain baby milestones such as self-controlled movement including rolling over, grabbing feet, and so on. Troubled, the family spoke to doctors about the situation, and while some doctors claimed that some babies may progress slowly physically, Louise wasn’t “happy,” according to Craigo.
After getting a brain scan, it was confirmed that Finley did indeed have CP, which was understandably hard for Craigo and Louise. Because neither of them nor the doctors knew how severe Finley’s CP was, the family took it day by day, which was an emotional roller coaster.
Eventually, Craigo and Louise were told that Finley’s CP could potentially be so severe that he could never roll on the floor, use a knife and fork, write, or read. Both parents were understandably distraught. But as the two processed what they’d been told, Finley began to roll over and play with his toys.
“It was like it was a miracle going on,” Craigo said. “From that day, I think the mindset changed… We just said, ‘Right, listen. Whatever it is, we’ll just combat it and we’ll try and give him the best life he could possibly have.’”
Since then, Craigo has done everything in his power to give Finley the best life possible, even in the face of his CP. One unlikely force of good has been streaming. Craigo’s friend Ryan suggested while playing Fortnite’s Season Three and Four that Craigo start streaming as a way for them to chat and relax in each others’ company.
Thus began Craigo’s journey as a part-time Twitch streamer. Though streaming went well initially, when Craigo was told that Finley needed surgery for his CP, the former began streaming every night from Monday to Thursday for around five hours a night.
In his final stream before taking a break to tend to Finley, he raised over 10,000 pounds – equivalent to around $14,000 USD. Craigo says he’s grateful to everyone who took part and donated anything over a year-and-a-half and that the money has gone a long way in helping Finley.
The money helped Finley get the medical treatment he needed, especially the physical therapy he needs multiple times every day to strengthen his back and legs.
“We’ve just been doing constant physio with him,” Craigo said. “Because he’s 10, he kind of wants to chill out a little bit because we’ve been taking him to physio since he was one year old.”
Part of that physio involved having to do exercises three times a day for six months straight with no breaks in between each day. Each session lasted for about an hour-and-a-half; once in the morning, afternoon and evening. Thinking back, Craigo says he’s “really proud” of Finley running that gauntlet of physio and proud of Louise for helping Finley while Craigo was at work.
As a reward for all the work he’s put in, Craigo thought it would be a good idea to have Finley play and stream Fortnite with him, knowing that playing together made Finley very happy. Since then, Craigo has posted updates of Finley’s progression on Twitter, which has reached many recognizable names in the community.
Ninja, LazarBeam, benjyfishy and many others reached out to Craigo and Finley, applauding Finley on his progress, especially after seeing Finley stand – aided by a stander – for more than a few seconds. In the case of Ninja and LazarBeam, the former sent Finley some goodies while the latter donated money to help pay for Finley’s hospital visits.
With dour news often populating social media, Craigo says that Finley’s progress has been a positive for everyone to see.
“I have people messaging me all the time [asking what CP is],” Craigo said. “It kind of makes me feel happy to spread awareness of it — it’s just making people more aware of what it actually is. It’s so cute to see him get so happy about the messages people send.”
Along the same vein, Craigo wants detractors of video games to know the positive impact they can have on a person and their mental health. Specifically, he wants to showcase how the gaming community came together to help and uplift Finley, especially considering how Finley’s progress has inspired many more.
In all, Craigo has high hopes for what he can do in the future now that he’s seen firsthand what the power of streaming can do for him and his family.
“I would love to stream full-time, not just for me, but it gives me time at home. It gives me that freedom to spend time with my family and see my children grow up. That would be an end-state goal of mine,” Craigo concluded.
For now, he’s happy playing Fortnite with Finley whenever he can and seeing how much he’s progressed, from a baby who was predicted not to be able to roll on the floor to standing up.