When I first heard about the Carson King story, I was inspired – of course – but I didn’t dig deeper. It was a feel-good story about a guy who sort of won the crowd-source-funding and social media lottery. On September 14, during a nationally televised football game, King held a sign with his Venmo account displayed asking for beer money. A surprising amount of money came in.

The 24-year-old announced that instead of keeping the money, he would donate it all to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. That started a nation-wide movement of people giving to his fundraising cause which eventually raised over $2 million.

What made the story even better is that it showed how fervent fans from rival football teams could join together to support a cause. This all happened at a time when state officials were discussing safety concerns about some clashes between fans of the Iowa State Cyclones and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes. So having a positive story like this really helped dial down the rivalry between the schools. In past years, fans of competing teams would work together to build homes or raise funds for other causes. This spontaneous phenomenon seemed to be in the same tradition of working together for good.

On September 20, King appeared on Good Morning America and was featured in other national media. He handled his new found fame maturely and effectively.

So, that’s the story. It’s a good story.

Here’s what we learned from the Carson King story and what we can do about it:

  1. Give generously to others.
  2. We will all make mistakes. That’s inevitable. We can’t always control that. What we do to improve and grow is within our control. You’re not defined by your mistakes. Forgive yourself and forgive others.
  3. Take responsibility for your mistakes and apologize.
  4. Don’t get bitter. Get better.
  5. If you’re a good person, humble, and trying to help others, most of the world will support you and hope the best for you.

On 1 October 2019, the Des Moines Register published a very positive story about Carson King that is consistent with the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism they are famous for: “As Carson King ends fundraiser with nearly $3 million, he reflects on new fame, the future.” Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“The Altoona resident became a sensation after cameras caught him holding a hand-drawn sign as he stood behind the set of ESPN’s “College GameDay” in Ames on Sept. 14. Drawn on the sign, in plain black marker: “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished,” and King’s Venmo handle. When the money poured in, far exceeding anything King had expected, he decided to donate the funds to the hospital. Busch Light and Venmo pledged to match any donations, and several Iowa businesses also donated, including Smokey Row Coffee Co. and an ice cream shop from Prairie City, where King grew up.” [More…]

Further Reading

A timeline of stories is provided below for those who wish to explore further.

  • 28 Sep 2019 – [Source] The Gazette article by Vanessa Miller. “Companies grapple with weight of social media in the age of Carson King.” Excerpt: “The virtual world — and the way people present themselves there — has infiltrated a wide swath of today’s physical world including home life, high school hallways, collegiate admissions, the workforce, romantic pursuits and even immigration.”
  • 26 Sep 2019 at 9:16 PM – [Source] Des Moines Register apology to Iowans. “We hear you. You’re angry. Here’s what we are doing about it.” Excerpt: “The Des Moines Register staff has heard from hundreds of people in the past few days upset over our handling of a story on Carson King, the 24-year-old whose Busch Light sign on ESPN’s “College GameDay” show launched more than a million dollars in donations to an Iowa children’s hospital. We’ve listened with an open mind to everyone, but especially Iowans, the people who are our neighbors, who care as much as we do about our state and everyone who lives here. And we hear you: You’re angry, you’re disappointed and you want us to understand that. I want to be as transparent as possible about what we did and why, answer the questions you’ve raised and tell you what we’ve learned so far and what we’ll try to do better.”
  • 25 Sep 2019 at 4:43 PM – [Source] Des Moines Register article by Kelsey Kremer. Excerpt: “Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation on Sept. 25 making Sep. 28 Carson King Day in Iowa in honor of his efforts to raise money for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.”
  • 25 Sep 2019 at 5:30 PM – [Source] Des Moines Register article by Aaron Calvin. “Meet Carson King, the ‘Iowa Legend’ who’s raised more than $1 million for charity off of a sign asking for beer money.” Excerpt: “…the money began to pour into his Venmo account. When it reached $600, he called his family and told them he wouldn’t use the haul for beer, but would rather donate it to the children’s hospital in Iowa City.”
  • 25 Sep 2019 at 11:11 AM – [Source] Des Moines Register article by Carol Hunter. Excerpt: “…the decision about how to use this information was preempted when King held a news conference to discuss his tweets and express his remorse. The news conference was covered by local television stations, which first reported on the racist posts and King’s remorse. After those stories aired, Busch Light’s parent company announced it would honor its pledge to the children’s hospital but would sever future ties with King. That happened before the Register published its profile of King, which was still in the editing process.”
  • 25 Sep 2019 at 9:46 AM – [Source] Des Moines Register article by Aaron Calvin. Excerpt: “By Monday afternoon, local and national media started picking up the tale. On Tuesday, Busch Light and Venmo, the two brands that had appeared on King’s sign, both pledged to match whatever money King was able to raise.”
  • 24 Sep 2019 at 9:49 PM – [Source] Des Moines Register article by Aaron Calvin. Excerpt: “The 24-year-old Iowan who held up a sign asking for Busch Light money at the ‘College GameDay’ show at the Cy-Hawk matchup — and has since raised over $1 million for charity with the help of other corporate donors — will now attend a football game at the University of Iowa after being given tickets. Carson King received two tickets to Iowa’s football game against Middle Tennessee State University at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday.”
  • 24 Sep 2019 at 7:51 PM – [Source] WHOTV article by staff writer. “Carson King Apologizes After ‘Hurtful and Embarrassing’ Tweet Surfaces.” Excerpt: “Carson King, who has helped raise over $1 million for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, has apologized after a controversial tweet of his from 2011 was discovered. King said a reporter for the Des Moines Register first called attention to the tweet, which referenced a racially-charged segment on the television show Tosh.0. King, who was 16 years old at the time, called the tweet “hurtful and embarrassing.” He said he doesn’t want it to take away from all the good the donations can do for the kids at the children’s hospital. King held a press conference Tuesday night to address the tweet.”
  • 24 Sep 2019 at 7:10 PM – [Source] Twitter coverage of Carson King press conference. Excerpt: “Carson King just finished up addressing the media after a racially charged tweet of his from 2011 surfaced.”
  • 24 Sep 2019 – [Source] A “Thank You” to Carson King and all who are thinking of UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Excerpt: ” ‘Thank you.’ Two words, eight letters. A small phrase with such an enormous meaning. They are words we say every day at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital as we see the incredible impact donors have on our patients and their families. Today we’re sending an extra ‘thank you’ to Carson King, a 24-year-old Iowa State fan from Altoona, Iowa, and to the thousands of contributors working through him to continue to make that impact on our patients’ lives.”