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UI Children's Hospital celebrates 'King of kindness' and his $3 million fundraising effort

Carson King floats idea of making fundraiser that started with a beer sign an annual event

Carson King conducts a virtual wire transfer Friday of the donations he collected as Camdyn Reisner, 13, and her mother, Mandy, participate in an event thanking King for his fundraising drive for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Camdyn got the jersey for being one of the official Hawkeye “kid captains.” (David Harmantas/Freelance)
Carson King conducts a virtual wire transfer Friday of the donations he collected as Camdyn Reisner, 13, and her mother, Mandy, participate in an event thanking King for his fundraising drive for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Camdyn got the jersey for being one of the official Hawkeye “kid captains.” (David Harmantas/Freelance)
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IOWA CITY — The viral fundraiser for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital — sparked by an Iowa State Cyclone fan’s impromptu beer sign — raised $3,004,202.14 from over 35,000 donors in all 50 states and Puerto Rico — with about $600,000 coming from Iowa alone.

And Carson King, the 24-year-old ISU fan who inspired the coast-to-coast giving, said he’s considering making the campaign an annual tradition, if not an even more constant feature in his everyday life.

“I’d like to maybe start a foundation in the long run and keep doing this as a career because I think we kind of found a little niche here,” he said Friday. “It’s something I’m maybe OK at. So we’ll run with it and see what happens.”

Officials with the Children’s Hospital announced King’s fundraising totals during an event Friday to celebrate the campaign, which drew the national spotlight and featured Iowa, King and the hospital in media outlets across the country. The tens of thousands of donations to King’s Venmo account ranged from a quarter to thousands — with contributors from Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, California and Nebraska giving the most.

Although many of the commitments still are expected — including large corporate gifts promised by Venmo and Anheuser Busch — more than $1 million of the $3 million total has been transferred to the UI Center for Advancement.

King told The Gazette his Venmo account — which had amassed $920,112.10 by the time he wrapped the campaign Oct. 1 — now is empty.

“It is officially at $0,” he said.

Venmo, a mobile payment service owned by PayPal, worked with King to transfer the money from his account to its nonprofit PayPal giving fund en route to the UI Children’s Hospital.

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“They actually had to get some engineers working on it to be able to transfer that amount of money,” King said.

The Altoona man’s unplanned foray into fundraising began Sept. 14 when he scrawled an appeal seeking help replenishing his Busch Light supply and flashed his sign behind the ESPN College GameDay crew visiting Ames for the Cy-Hawk football game.

When viewers took notice and began generously donating — to King’s surprise — he announced plans to redirect the contributions to the Children’s Hospital.

That inspired even more giving. Anheuser Busch and Venmo both committed to match King’s fundraising, which ended at $920,112.10 — 92 times the $10,000 total he was at when the corporations committed their respective matches. Iowa distributors of Busch Light pitched in the final $41,000 needed to push the total over $3 million.

“It’s crazy to think about all these kids it’s going to help out,” King said. “I didn’t think it was going to get anything to start with. So $3 million is pretty cool.”

In thanking King for leading the effort that swept the state and nation, pediatric patients crowded the Children’s Hospital lobby Friday afternoon, holding signs of their own that read, “We are thankful,” “Thank you everyone” and “You’re the King of kindness.”

One patient — 13-year-old Camdyn Reisner — wore the Hawkeye jersey she got for being an official “kid captain” and ribbed King, who she knows is a Cyclone fan.

“Camdyn loves her kid captain jersey, and that’s why it was without a doubt what she was wearing today,” said Mandy Reisner as her daughter pointed a finger at King. “It truly means more to us than we can put into words.”

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Suresh Gunasekaran, the relatively new chief executive of the UI Hospitals and Clinics who came from the University of Texas Southwestern Health System in Dallas, said observing this campaign has been an education in Iowa culture.

“One funny sign. One man with a great heart. Thousands across Iowa and the nation rallied to the cause. Not even a month later, we’re here for a $3 million gift,” Gunasekaran said, adding later, “We promise to be good stewards of this amazing gift.”

Although the hospital still is working through details of how to use the money, officials said it will go toward clinical endeavors and supporting the family and patient experience.

Examples of how it will be used include:

• Easing financial pressures on families with a hospitalized child — including costs for things like lodging, food, gas, pharmacy copays and other expenses;

• Supporting child life services that improve the experience for patients and siblings through things like play, communication and other emotional and developmental supports;

• Providing the latest technology, including sophisticated monitoring;

• Enhancing neonatal and pediatric transport services;

• Affording professional development and continuing education opportunities for nurses and other care providers;

• And covering equipment needs ranging from advanced imaging units to bed warmers.

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

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