The crudely drawn sign was supposed to be a joke.
Carson King took Sharpie to poster board the night of Sept. 13 and sketched out a simple plea: “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished.” King, 24, added his Venmo handle and crossed his fingers that someone watching ESPN’s “College GameDay” the next morning would see the sign and send him a “couple dollars” for his favorite beer.
His wish was granted. And then some.
As of Saturday afternoon, King said he’s been sent about $270,000, and his once-humorous endeavor had transformed into a significant fundraiser for a local children’s hospital, backed by major brands, including Venmo and Busch. Both companies have said they will match the donations sent to King, which would mean a total donation of nearly $1 million to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
“I feel awesome about it,” King said Friday. “It’s great.”
King had been sent about $45,000 by Wednesday evening, putting a national spotlight on a facility already known to some college football fans. (In one of the sport’s newest traditions, Iowa fans and their opponents turn and wave to children at the hospital, which overlooks Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium.)
“I was completely overwhelmed. I didn’t think anything like this would have a chance to happen,” King said Tuesday in a phone interview. “Especially when Busch commented. I was at a loss for words.”
“College GameDay” was broadcasting from Ames, Iowa, on Saturday as No. 18 Iowa faced unranked Iowa State. The game had personal significance for King, who attended Iowa State but is taking time off from school to work. The school, he noted, has “a notoriously not good football program.” Even though he now lives about 45 minutes away in Altoona, King and his friends drove up for “College GameDay” to “show how great the fans were and show the country Iowa is no joke.”
King said he brought his sign along on the off chance he appeared on TV. But his strategic positioning near a stage paid off, and within half an hour of holding up the poster, he received more than $400 in contributions. As hundreds of dollars became thousands, King realized he had a chance to do “something a little more special than buy Busch Light.”
After consulting his family, King pledged to donate his earnings (sans about $15, for one case of beer) to the hospital. As his friends and relatives spread the message, the contributions to his Venmo multiplied. They kept coming in Monday, and by Tuesday afternoon, Busch Beer and Venmo took notice, each offering to match his donation to the hospital.
King’s account will remain open for donations until the end of the month.
As attention to King’s poster-turned-charity reached its zenith, he said some of his friends wondered why he had opted against holding on to some of the money. He works on the rapid response team at Prairie Meadows Casino, after all — why not spend it there?
For King, the answer was obvious.
“There’s a better purpose for it,” he said. “The kids deserve everything they can get. If I can give it to them, I’m going to give it to them.”
King called the hospital Monday morning and introduced himself.
“Oh, my God,” a receptionist exclaimed, according to King. “I’ve wanted to talk to you!” In a statement Wednesday, the hospital’s interim executive director, Amy O’Deen, said Carson’s thoughtful effort “demonstrates the generosity and goodness of Iowans, uniting Cyclone and Hawkeye fans to make a difference for our kids.”
According to King, both parties have since come up with a plan: King will visit at the end of the month, where he will receive a tour of the facility and meet some of the children the funds will benefit. He will carry with him a check.
And this time, the paper he wields won’t be a joke at all.