September 22, 2021

It was more than just a game

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two years since many of us watched some kid holding a handwritten sign asking for beer money on national TV at the Iowa vs Iowa State game. That kid was my kid, Carson.

You wouldn’t believe the ride he’s been on since that time, and with him, our entire family. If I’m perfectly honest, even hearing ESPN’s College GameDay will be back in Ames Saturday, I threw up in my mouth a little.

There’s nothing about anyone in my family that screams “give me attention!” We just aren’t those people. We’re more the “I’ll take a table in the back” type. Or so I thought.

Turns out Carson is a “go with the flow” guy. Even a “run with it” guy.

He took what was meant as a joke and turned it into a more than $3 million donation for a children’s hospital. Not a shabby feat.

I remember the day it happened like it was yesterday. I remember seeing him on television with his goofy sign ... the phone conversation when he called to tell me ... the discussion about the money ... hearing his friends all excited in the background ... our family group texts going off all day and into the next. I also remember telling him, “have fun with it while you can because everyone will forget about this by Tuesday and they’ll be on to the next story.”

OK. So the one time I was wrong, I was really wrong.

Carson took our entire family along for his unimaginable journey. His dad and I went to New York City with him as he made the rounds on the news shows. He was so excited to meet Michael Strahan on “Good Morning, America” and then to be surprised with a live feed from some of the kids and staff at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. But that was just the beginning. He’s recognized in the Iowa Hall of Pride and was named as one of our state’s Outstanding Young Iowans and Prairie City’s Citizen of the Year. There have also been other stand-out moments for him.

His story was very popular in places you wouldn’t expect. In fact, a Japanese film crew was with Carson for several days filming his life for a documentary. When they interviewed me I was told they had actors in place to reenact bits and pieces of his story, so there would be a Japanese woman playing me. Can you even imagine? I also hosted a German film crew at my home for a similar production in their country.

As crazy as it sounds, he’s in the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, with proceeds from sales of his bobblehead going to the King Family Fund at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. (I admit, it’s kind of hard to decorate around a bobblehead of your kid, but believe me, I’ve found a way.)

He has found a passion for public speaking and traveled across the state speaking with organizations, schools and colleges. I attribute his ease at addressing large groups to his high school speech and drama coach at PCM because he certainly didn’t get it from his dad or me!

So anyway ...

In just a little more than a week, Carson, now 26, and I will be in St. Louis where he will be honored as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans.

Sometimes I just need to remember exactly what he’s done with his lingering 15-minutes of fame from a silly sign.

I can’t even begin to tell you all the things he’s experienced over the past two years and he has embraced them all. The first thing I always ask him when he’s done is, “did you have fun?”

I don’t want this odyssey to ever become anything other than enjoyable for him since this entire adventure was simply because he inspired people across the State of Iowa and the entire country to give money to help sick children.

After all, Carson didn’t ask for anything more than that.

Contact Dana King at

Dana King

Dana King

Multitasking duties between the Newton News, PCM Explorer and the Jasper County Tribune.