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The Carson King saga, a legendary Iowa tale of giving back

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Iowa (KWWL) -- It all started with a sign for beer money and ended with millions of dollars raised for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital.

We're looking back on the Carson King Fundraising Saga and how a simple sign and string of events had Iowans picking sides.

It's the sign that started it all, getting featured on ESPN's College Game Day coverage on Sept. 14th and launched an unsuspecting 24-year-old into Iowa Stardom, "Busch Light supply needs replenished".

Donations began flooding in right away. Carson King said in a tweet, "I will be donating all but enough for a case of Busch Light."

At the time, thousands of dollars would be going to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. A move that'd coin in an Iowa legend.

However, it was a single eight-year-old tweet that had Iowans picking sides and King defending his ability to mature.

"I know there's a lot of people that have been looking up to me lately and I don't want that to affect what I'm doing with the hospital," said King during a news conference he called.

The tweet had been discovered by a Des Moines Register reporter, Aaron Calvin during what they called a routine background check.

However, shortly after the controversy of King's tweet and his apology hit the nightly news, Calvin's own controversial tweets were uncovered.

After the news Busch light cut ties with King and scraped their Carson King cans for distribution.

Meanwhile, many Iowans rallied behind King in support. Even Gov. Kim Reynolds weighted in declaring Sept. 28th Carson King day.

You can make a mistake in your life, and still go on to do amazing things. Carson King, thank you for reminding us all of that! #IowaProud

Posted by Kim Reynolds on Wednesday, September 25, 2019


"It really demonstrates how one person can make a huge difference and he took something and turned it into something really good for the kids at the hospital, the Children's Hospital at the University of Iowa."

All the while donations continued to pour in. $50,000 from RAGBRAI alone, even despite the controversy.

However, It was the fallout from the Des Moines Register's reporter and handling of the story that changed the future of RAGBRAI.

The former RAGBRAI Director, TJ Juskiewicz posting a statement online that read in part, my efforts to communicate with our loyal riders has been consistently blocked as it did not mesh with the company’s PR narrative to spin the Carson King embarrassment. There are hundreds of questions that have been left unanswered in an attempt to save face for the Register, without regard to how it affects RAGBRAI.”

All of RAGBRAI's staff quit and formed Iowa's ride later in October.

Finally, King's goal of $3 million was reached with the help of a benefit concert.

On October 11th, King traveled to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital to make the big announcement.

"I think it's crazy to think about all these kids and the families we're helping with this donation," said King.

What started with a plea for beer money turned into a legendary Iowa tail of giving back.

"I never thought it'd get near this big so, I didn't think we'd get anything to start with so $3 million is pretty cool," said King.

All for the kids.

King didn't stop there, he continues to inspire Iowans across the state.

From ringing the bell for the Salvation Army to visiting area school to speak with students, King continues to remind Iowans all it takes is one person to make an impact.

Just yesterday King was back at the UI Stead Family Hospital delivering toys and money raised by a young Iowa man inspired by his actions.

Next month King will be at Starmont Elementary to congratulate the students for their efforts to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House.

For a full timeline of events and links to past stories, click here.

Author Profile Photo

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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