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Dallas resident's viral photo catches attention of local eSports mogul leading to pledge to help

Envy gaming owner Mike Rufail took notice of viral photo and has pledged to help North Texans affected by winter weather

DALLAS — After another fresh blanket of snow fell mid-week another layer of grief came with it for so many for so many North Texans.

We have heard the stories on the news of the freezing cold conditions in homes with no power.  And we’ve seen the devastating images of busted pipes, flooded homes, and the anguish that follows.

"To see it in Texas it’s just striking,” said Dallas resident Thomas Black.

And a photo he captured drove home the devastation.

"I’ve been flooded with hundreds of requests for permissions to use the photo or for interviews," said Black. "It’s just been non-stop."

He took it at his uptown apartment complex Monday, and it didn't take long for it to go viral.

Credit: Thomas Black
Dallas resident Thomas Black ice-covered ceiling fan at his uptown Dallas apartment building on February 15, 2021 during the winter weather that crippled Texas.

People from around the world have reached out on social media. The photo making the rounds on all the major news networks nationally.

And a TV station from France dispatched a crew to tour Black’s building. People here in North Texas noticed, too. One in particular.

"I’m a born and raised Texan and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Mike Rufail, a Lufkin native who now calls Dallas home.

Rufail is the owner of Dallas-based Envy Gaming, one of the world most valuable franchises in the booming esports industry.  Rufail is a kind of rags to riches story. When he took the plunge into the gaming space in 2009, it was not without tough times.

So, with that as a backdrop we asked Rufail what compelled him to act when he saw that ice-covered fan.

"The fact that it was that cold was really telling the story that there are a lot of people really freezing right now and in trouble,” he said.

Rufail saw on Black’s twitter bio that he was into esports. Knowing that he wasn’t in a position at the time to go and help at the moment Rufail reached out to offer some fan gear as consolation for Black’s trouble.

But Black’s response was altogether unexpected.

"Let’s figure out a way to help,” Black told Rufail, "and that really shocked me. That he said no, don’t worry about me. Let’s find a way we can work together to help our community," said Rufail.

So, the duo linked by the photo plan to fund-raise and provide relief in the coming weeks. They are working on a plan to create a marathon live stream to raise funds.  And they’re discussing ways to coordinate providing kits with food and essentials for those affected by the weather.

Whatever comes of those plans will be important for North Texas fighting through an untenable situation.

And it should be noted none of it happens without one person simply lending a hand to help. And that’s how we will all get through this, together.

"It shows that people care about the Dallas community from all levels of the community,” said Black.

Rufail agrees, “that’s what great about Texas the people here make it what it is and we need to help each other now, it’s important."

Let’s hope that sentiment goes viral, just like that ice-covered fan.