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Mister Rogers’ grown-up fans flood Twitch with voice-mail appreciations

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Twitch is in the middle of its marathon of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and judged by the uplifting voice mails from its viewers, it’s become the perfect escape.

Twitch this week released 19 voice mails from the 300 it’s received this week, during a Mister Rogers marathon viewed by more than 3.7 million. The stream, done in partnership with PBS, has raised more than $18,000 for public television in the United States.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a seminal program in both public television and children’s programming in the United States. Indeed, his appearance before a Senate committee in 1969 is widely credited with winning $20 million in government funding for the Public Broadcasting Corporation, targeted for severe budget cuts at the time.

Rogers, alongside Sesame Street and The Electric Company, paved the way for children’s television programming for a generation to come. This nostalgic return to his neighborhood is emotional for many reasons. Any time people revisit a piece of their past that was so beloved and helped shape the person they became, there’s a longing to return to a peaceful time.

As those kids become teenagers and adults, coping with the cruel realities the world sometimes carries, the decision to settle down in front of a TV and return to those series, like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, is therapeutic.

In one of the voice mails received, a viewer said that after having a bit of a hard week and an upcoming surgery to contend with, it was finding Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on Twitch and bingeing classic episodes that managed to make him feel a little bit better.

Another man, who said he lives with Asperger Syndrome, talked about how important of a role Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood played in his life when he was a kid growing up in the 1970s.

“He was like the only person in my family who understood me,” the man said. “He said it was all okay. He taught me how to be okay with myself. When he died, I was so broken up inside because it felt like I had lost someone from my family.”

Fred Rogers touched the lives of millions and the outpouring of support has left the Twitch chatroom and made its way to other venues like Twitter. Anthony Breznican, a reporter for Entertainment Weekly, shared his personal connection the man, about about their chance meeting and impact it had on him as a man going through a period of grief. Breznican’s full account of the story was later published on Entertainment Weekly’s site, but this one excerpt seems to sum up the main point most of the callers were trying to get across:

Mr. Rogers saw people. He saw through and around the things that confuse or distract others. He saw these people. He saw me, a struggling young man who needed some kind words.

And somehow, in a way that defies belief, he made you believe he saw you, too – even if you never met. His television neighbor.

Twitch’s marathon is still occurring right now for those who want to join. It will run through June 3. All 19 voicemails sent to Twitch can be listened to below. Viewers who want to share their own message can do at 681-Hi-Fred0 (681- 443–7330).

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