116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Just like two years ago, Carson King spent this week working as a security guard at Prairie Meadows Casino and Hotel in Altoona, checking IDs and handling issues on the casino floor before rooting for his beloved Iowa State Cyclones on Saturday.
“Still a regular working guy,” King said. “Same working hours. Same days off.”
But a lot else has changed for King since September 2019, when he became a lot more famous than other “regular working guys” during ESPN College GameDay’s trip to Ames ahead of the Cy-Hawk game.
King spent $1.19 at Walmart the night before to make a sign asking for money to spend on Busch Light. That caught the eye of ESPN’s national audience, and his beer request turned into accidental philanthropy.
With the help of companies like Anheuser-Busch and Venmo matching donations, the former Iowa State student raised $3 million for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
“Instead of buying a car or taking a cruise or going to the casino, which is what 24-year-old me would’ve done, he decided to give the money to hospital on the rival school’s campus,” said ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, one of the many people to praise King’s donation, on SportsCenter in 2019.
Two years after the attention from Van Pelt and many other national media, people still stop King at the grocery store.
“Masks have helped quite a bit with incognito mode,” King told The Gazette Thursday.
With Saturday’s renewal of the Cy-Hawk rivalry — the first football game between the two schools since the start of his fame — King will be at Jack Trice Stadium and expects his beloved Cyclones to win, 38-24.
He’s still figuring out whether to arrive early and see College GameDay in person. If he does, his sign will probably not involve Busch Light this time.
“Since this falls on 9/11, I’d like to tie in some type of veteran’s charity possibly,” King said. “Still got a lot of thinking to do on that.”
Since his big 2019 donation, philanthropy has been on King’s mind a lot more.
He raised another $150,000 through the Carson King Foundation, which he started in 2020 to raise money for other not-for-profit organizations and continues to operate as a volunteer.
Iowa Love has been selling football T-shirts in Iowa, Iowa State and UNI colors, with all net proceeds supporting the Carson King Foundation.
King said the foundation raised more than $40,000 from the T-shirts in the first week of sales.
The foundation has not selected a charity yet for the T-shirt money although King said it’ll likely either be the Stead Family Children’s Hospital or a group supporting veterans.
Along with fundraising, King also speaks to schools about the power of social media, which helped amplify his “accidental journey into fundraising.” Anheuser-Busch ended its partnership with King, though, after racist tweets sent by King when he was 16 came to light.
“If you can learn a little bit from the things that I've had to go through on the way — the highs and the lows — then it's just a small price to pay to help some others out,” King said.
King has tried to eliminate all overhead costs so that any donation can go right to the causes supported, including the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
He even paid the $13 annual fee for the website domain with the money he makes as a security guard.
“I think the only thing the foundation has actually paid for is the tax prep for the foundation last year,” King said.
Along with his full-time job at Prairie Meadows and his part-time construction job, he spends between eight and 16 hours per week running the Carson King Foundation.
King hopes the foundation is eventually large enough that it requires him to lead it full-time.
Until then, his relatively new fame has brought a perk to his security job.
“It's made my job pretty easy, to be completely honest with you, when I have to go talk to someone about something,” King said. “They have a little bit of that rapport already built.”
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