ARLINGTON — Carson King visited Starmont School on Monday and delivered a message about kindness.
“I learned how many amazing people are out there,” said the Iowa State University student who raised about $3 million for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital after he gained nationwide fame when he and his sign asking for beer money appeared on ESPN.
King had more money than he ever imagined coming in and he transformed the unexpected campaign into one for the children’s hospital. He also became the center of controversy for comments he made prior on social media. His defenders were many and passionate.
Since then, he has been sharing his “Kindness is King” message, and he remains upbeat about people and the power of kindness.
King told the Starmont students about how he had planned on doing something that might grab the attention of ESPN’s “Gameday” that was broadcasting the Iowa-Iowa State football game that day in Ames.
“I was thinking I should make a sign, maybe something about free booze,” he said. “I got there way too late to get into the game, so I saw the stage outside the stadium and ran over there. In four minutes I had $600. I thought, ‘This is really going to be a fun night.’”
When thousands of dollars started rolling in, King soon announced that he was going to donate the money to the children’s hospital. Busch even got behind the effort and promised to match his donation.
Then he said he got tweets from a news agency asking him about things he’d said in a YouTube video he made when he was 16.
“What do you think about those comments now?” the reporter asked.
“Not great,” the now 24-year-old replied.
Soon after this information was released, Busch said they were “done associating” with him.
“I was devastated,” King told the students. “I thought this has derailed a multi-million-dollar fundraiser. I never thought making a YouTube video that long ago would be held against me. Everyone makes mistakes.”
Evidently, that is what most of the population thinks, as the funds continued to pour in.
“I learned that one small kindness can turn into something really cool. And it can be as simple as just saying, ‘You look nice today.’ A person’s day can be turned around just by someone being nice to them,” King said.
King also said he learned that social media is a powerful tool, for good and bad.
“It’s incredibly powerful. It has a lot of weight and stays around a long time,” he said.
Carson said that the main thing he learned was “how many amazing people are out there.”
“They got behind me to help save some lives,” he said in closing.
King made the stop in Starmont after students collected one million pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City. Along with the tabs, industrial art students also melted down aluminum into about a dozen foot-long ingots to also be donated for later recycling.
“If Carson King can do it, we can do it with pop tabs,” was the slogan Starmont students used to challenge themselves.
King told the students he still has the original sign in his living room and that he didn’t keep any of the money for himself.