Getting your homemade sign broadcast on national television during ESPN's College GameDay has become a fun contest for fans to see who can be the most creative, funny or downright mean.
But when Carson King created his sign asking for money to replenish his beer supply, he never thought it would take off the way it has, resulting in more than $67,000 being sent to his personal Venmo account as of Thursday night, and a swarm of social media responses.
His initial tweet that declared his intention to donate the money to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital went viral and caught the attention of Anheuser-Busch and Venmo, who both pledged to match King's donation. By Friday, that number -- including donations and matching funds -- had passed the $600,000 mark, and King's face was set to appear on his own set of Busch Light cans.
King, a die-hard Iowa State fan, and his friends showed up at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, hoping to get a spot close to the stage on the College GameDay set in Ames, Iowa. When they approached -- with King carrying a sign that read, "Busch Light supply needs replenished ~ Venmo ~ Carson-King-25" -- the stage was packed with no way to get anywhere close to the action.
He and his friends decided to stand near the secondary stage, where no one had yet gathered, and got a spot right in front.
"I didn't think I'd get on TV at all," King said. "We figured we might be able to catch an interview, see Maria [Taylor] or something. So we stood right there. Then they ended up being over there quite a bit."
King hadn't realized he made it on TV. He also had no idea that fans watching from all over the country had started sending him money until his friend saw notifications popping up, one after another, on King's phone.
Within 30 minutes, King had $400. Initially, he thought it was funny, that he could enjoy a night out and afford to restock his beer supply.
But the money kept coming. Once it hit $600, King thought there was a better way to put this money to use than a few beers with his friends.
King, a 24-year-old resident of Altoona, Iowa, called his parents and family, telling them what had transpired.
He suggested he should donate the inbound money to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. It is tradition at Iowa Hawkeyes football games for fans in the stadium to wave toward the hospital's windows at the end of the first quarter.
"It's just a huge part of Iowa," King said. "They help out kids from all over the country. They're one of the best at what they do, and Iowa supports them. I figured this would be our way to help out."
At that time, his Venmo account had amassed approximately $1,600, and King tweeted out his intention to donate the money.
As for King, he'll get free beer for a year, courtesy of Anheuser-Busch.
"We saw the sign on the broadcast, we heard about Carson's noble pledge to donate the money and we knew we had to support that sentiment," Anheuser-Busch senior director Daniel Blake said. "It's a fantastic story and we're pleased to contribute to a great cause, including Carson's own desire to replenish his beer supply."
In addition, Venmo is giving King something extra for his donation, but privacy issues prevent them from disclosing what that gift is.
"As Venmo's platform has continued to grow and evolve, we've seen our community use Venmo to send small payments of goodwill and random acts of kindness," a company spokesperson said. "We're constantly amazed by the kindness of the Venmo community and what they're able to achieve together, which is why we felt inspired to match the donation."
King agreed to keep the donation option open through the last day in September. As news spread about his generosity and the matching donations, his account balance grew to more than $36,000 by Wednesday afternoon and started to approach $70,000 that evening.
A local construction company, DeWitt Construction, offered to donate $300 for every new roof it installs through the end of September, as well, piling on to what has turned from a funny sign into a very generous offer.
King never thought his request for a case of beer would turn into so much kindness from others and an opportunity to help sick children in his home state. When asked why he thought he should donate the money rather than keep it for himself, King said it was just the right thing to do.
"Those kids are incredible. They're going through such a hard time," King said. "I think it's important [that] any help we can get them, we should get it to them. Give them something to smile about at the end of the day."