Education

Five months after Carson King, Busch donation yet unfulfilled

'We have not yet received their donation, but we are working with them'

Carson King stands on stage with Camdyn Reisner, age 13 and Reisner's mother, Mandy, during an event thanking King for t
Carson King stands on stage with Camdyn Reisner, age 13 and Reisner’s mother, Mandy, during an event thanking King for the donations he collected at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. (David Harmantas/Freelance)

Nearly five months after Iowa’s best-known chance fundraiser Carson King wrapped his impromptu push for donations to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, Anheuser-Busch has not yet fulfilled its promise to match the nearly $1 million that King generated — although officials said they’re working on it.

The UI Center for Advancement, which handles the university’s philanthropy, has received more than $2 million of the more than $3 million committed through King’s initiative — which included about $1 million that 35,000-plus donors gave via King’s Venmo account and a matching gift from Venmo, the mobile payment service that vowed to reciprocate King’s efforts.

Busch also committed to match the total King raised between Sept. 14 and the end of that month — bringing the committed total to the UI Children’s Hospital to more than $3 million.

Although Dana Larson, spokeswoman for the UI Center for Advancement, told The Gazette, “We have not yet received their donation,” she said the center is working with Busch.

“We are incredibly thankful to Anheuser Busch for its gift commitment to the University of Iowa,” she said. “Our donors give to us in many ways, and often pledge their gifts over time. This is not in any way unusual.”

Busch executives — via a public relations firm — told The Gazette, “We’re working with the University of Iowa hospital system to process our commitment appropriately through its channels as well as ours. As with any transaction or donation, payment terms are handled privately.”

The UI Center for Advancement does not provide details of its discussions with donors.

“We adhere to best practices with donor information, handling it with respect and confidentiality,” Larson said.

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Busch has been central to the King story since it began early Sept. 14 — the day of the annual Iowa-Iowa State football game. Former ISU student King, 24, of Altoona, made a sign using white poster board and black Sharpie that would change his life.

“Busch Light supply needs replenished,” he wrote, scrawling his Venmo account beneath.

Finding opportunity to hoist his sign behind ESPN’s College GameDay crew, King was surprised when television viewers began making small-dollar donations. He initially conceived of the beer he could buy until his account amassed several hundred, prompting King to think bigger and announce on social media the money would go to help sick kids at the University of Iowa — his team’s game day rival.

He agreed to extend the impromptu fundraiser through the end of the month, capturing the national spotlight as thousands more poured in. Venmo and Busch got involved early, when the total was under $10,000, committing to match any amount raised.

But 10 days after King first raised his sign, Busch announced it was cutting ties with the Iowan after he issued a public apology for racist tweets made in 2012 when he was a 16-year-old high school student. King said he was compelled to proactively apologize after a reporter with The Des Moines Register asked him about the old social media posts.

Although Busch vowed to make good on its pledge to match donations, both it and The Register faced backlash for their handling of the fundraiser — which ended up generating $920,112.10 in King’s Venmo account by the end of September.

Including the Busch and Venmo matches, plus additional gifts that trickled in after the matching period ended and King stopped accepting contributions, the total commitment reached $3,004,202.14.

In working with King on how to use the gift, hospital officials said — generally speaking — it will support clinical endeavors and the family and patient experience.

Examples of how it will be used include:

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

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• Supporting child life services that improve the hospital experience for patients and siblings through things like play;

• Providing the latest technology, including sophisticated monitoring;

• Enhancing neonatal and pediatric transport services;

• Affording professional development and education opportunities for nurses and providers;

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

King earlier this month announced he’s started his own Carson King Foundation to continue philanthropy to help kids and their families, while also uniting communities.

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

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