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Carson King forgoes cut of 'Iowa Legend' bobblehead

Portion of sales will go to UI Children's Hospital

The Carson King bobblehead
The Carson King bobblehead

Iowa State University fan-turned-fundraiser Carson King has received lots of calls and messages since his beer-money-seeking sign behind ESPN’s College GameDay crew last month morphed into more than $3 million in donations for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

King, 24, has been asked to appear on Good Morning America. He was invited to the sidelines of a home Hawkeye game. A man from Huxley gave him 30 cases of Busch Light.

And then last week, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum contacted him with a request: to attach via loosefitting spring an oversized likeness of his head to a smaller jeans-clad body they could mass produce and ship to fans around the nation and world.

“I’m still surprised by everything,” King told The Gazette on Monday.

The pitch would sell “Iowa Legend” bobbleheads in honor of King and his generosity for $25 each, plus an $8 flat-rate shipping charge.

“We offered to split it however you want,” Phil Sklar, co-founder and CEO of the five-year-old bobblehead museum, said of his company’s proposal to King.

“He didn’t want any — surprisingly,” Sklar told The Gazette. “He doesn’t want this to benefit him, which is pretty remarkable for someone of his age generating this kind of excitement and money. He wants it all to go to the hospital.”

But King, who lives in Altoona and works security for Prairie Meadows Casino, did OK the bobblehead production — which will still be sold for $25, with $5 of every sale going to the UI Children’s Hospital.

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The rest will go toward production and ancillary costs, Sklar said. And the company is planning to gift King and his family some of the replica bobbleheads — as mementos of that one time he made a public appeal for beer money, received way more than he needed, redirected the generosity, and inspired $3 million in donations for sick kids.

“It’s amazing that a regular guy wanting to do something nice can spark a movement of generosity,” King said.

The Milwaukee-based National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum — which was founded five years ago and since has produced 500-some unique bobbleheads in addition to the ones it displays — announced its “Iowa Legend” model Monday, exactly one month after King’s viral appeal.

Sklar said he and his colleagues are sports fans and follow the sports world and — like everyone else — felt moved by King’s story, which started during the Sept. 14 festivities preceding the annual Cy-Hawk game in Ames.

King said he didn’t expect anyone to actually log on to Venmo and contribute to his beer fund, and he requested in the sign he raised during ESPN’s College GameDay coverage. So when they did to the tune of hundreds, King announced via social media plans to redirect the money to the Children’s Hospital, prompting more giving — including from Anheuser Busch and Venmo, both of which vowed to match the total King raised through the end of September.

Widespread publicity accelerated the giving to up over $3 million — with more still coming in via direct donations to the hospital.

After letting the idea of a King-inspired bobblehead percolate, Sklar said, he reached out via Twitter, and King gave the OK.

“What better way to honor him and to inspire others to do good?” Sklar said, sharing his vision for the help his bobbleheads might offer in prolonging the impact and motiving others to perform small acts of charity.

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“Hold the door open for somebody or donate to a worthy cause,” he said. “They can look at the bobblehead and think of what he’s done.”

In just the few hours after announcing the Carson King bobbleheads — which depict him raising his legendary Busch Light sign and wearing an ISU-hued “Iowa Legend” shirt — Sklar reported receiving 250 preorders, with momentum growing.

Preordered bobbleheads are expected to arrive in January. And, although many of the company’s unique bobbleheads are more popular in niche markets — like this one will be in Iowa — Sklar expects some national, if not international, appeal.

“We think having a bobblehead is one of the biggest honors, and when we learned about Carson and all that he has done over the past few weeks, we knew he deserved this honor,” Sklar said.

King on Friday visited the UI Children’s Hospital for an event during which he ceremonially transferred the more than $3 million and met with pediatric patients — some of whom came down from their rooms in wheelchairs and with IVs, waving handmade signs of their own, like one that read, “You’re the King of kindness.”

Although King’s Venmo account now officially is empty, the mobile payment service owned by PayPal had to tap engineers to transfer the large sum via its nonprofit PayPal giving fund, according to King. And UI Center for Advancement officials said the full $3 million commitment still is coming in.

“We are still working through the process of receiving the full donation from Carson King’s initiative,” according to Dana Larson, a spokeswoman for the Center for Advancement, the UI fundraising arm.

Anyone still wanting to give in King’s honor can visit givetoiowa.org and give to the UI Stead Familiy Children’s Hospital fund.

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Anyone wanting to buy a Carson King bobblehead can visit the hall of fame and museum’s online store.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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