IOWA CITY — A spontaneous fundraiser for the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital that started with one man’s appeal for more beer money and snowballed into a nationwide campaign involving thousands has wrapped at $2.95 million.
Donations are continuing to pour into Carson King’s Venmo account, even though the 24-year-old from Altoona set Sept. 30 as a campaign end goal.
“What a whirlwind,” King wrote in an open letter posted to his social media accounts. “The last two weeks have changed my life, and my hope is that these donations will help many people in the weeks, months and years to come.”
The unexpected fundraiser started during the Sept. 14 Cy-Hawk faceoff festivities when King held up a jesting sign seeking help to replenish his Busch Light beer supply during ESPN’s College GameDay visit to Ames.
Once he began amassing hundreds of dollars on Venmo for beer, King announced plans to redirect the unexpected support toward the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Venmo then promised to match the total raised through the end of September, as did Anheuser-Busch — even after cutting ties with Carson following its discovery of racist tweets he made seven years ago while in high school.
“We are not pulling our support,” according to one of many tweets Busch issued in response to condemnation from the public for its decision to cut ties. “We’re honoring our commitment to match the amount raised through the end of today as promised.”
As news of the campaign spread and more contributed, King continued to up his goal from $1 million to $2 million, telling The Gazette early Tuesday he hoped to announce a nearly $3 million total — including corporate contributions and matches.
Even after unveiling Tuesday afternoon the $2.95 million total, donations still were arriving.
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“For The Kids!!” one person wrote after giving Tuesday afternoon, referring to a #FTK hashtag associated with the campaign. “What an awesome act of charity!”
“I’m honored to be able to give money for your cause,” another donor wrote Tuesday. “My son had a stroke at 10 days of age. I have no doubt they are responsible for saving his life!”
King noted any gifts added after Sept. 30 won’t receive the Venmo and Busch match.
“To everyone who sent a donation on Venmo — large and small — thank you,” King wrote in his social media post. “I never imagined that a sign on College GameDay would lead to this tidal wave of support for kids in need.”
In addition to Busch and Venmo, corporations from inside and outside Iowa committed hefty lump sums, such as Northwest Mutual and Prairie Meadows Casino and Hotel, where King works security.
UI officials said they’re working with Venmo and King to transfer the donations. The university and its fundraising arm didn’t disclose how much the Children’s Hospital has received in direct donations associated with the King campaign as of Tuesday.
Although officials with Iowa’s Department of Revenue didn’t answer specific tax questions about how the raised money will be handled, a spokesman said money or property received as a gift generally is not taxable to the recipient.
“The department doesn’t have complete information on this tax situation to answer specific questions,” department spokesman John Fuller said.
King, through his campaign, became an instant celebrity across Iowa and the country, appearing on morning television talk shows and in articles circulated across local and national media.
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Gov. Kim Reynolds declared this past Saturday as “Carson King Day,” and the Hawkeye football squad invited King to its sidelines, where he was able to wave at kids in the UI Children’s Hospital during what has become a first-quarter tradition.
King’s story took an unexpected turn last week when the Des Moines Register approached him about offensive tweets from his past, prompting King to apologize publicly and drawing the ire of thousands upset with the Register’s reporting.
The Register since has parted ways with the reporter of the article — it was discovered he had posted offensive tweets of his own years ago. The paper also responded to the outrage by changing its backgrounding policies and practices both for staff and those it covers and includes in its articles.
In a statement on Tuesday, university officials praised and thanked the campaign and those who gave to it — “on behalf of everyone at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, including our pediatric patients and families.”
“We are simply overwhelmed by the generosity of the many people, organizations, and companies across the country who contributed in support of the kids and their families through Carson King’s initiative.”
The donated millions will benefit pediatric patients, according to that statement, although UI Health Care officials said King hasn’t yet determined specifically how he wants to direct the Children’s Hospital gift.
Officials are planning a recognition of the support and the impact it will have for the next Hawkeye home game weekend.
“To the kids in the Stead Family Children’s Hospital — keep fighting,” King wrote in his open letter. “I hope you can see how many people have your back.”
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