Employee Stories - Carson King

It makes sense that Carson King works in an industry dedicated to protecting people. He cares deeply for his fellow man, woman, and child.

And these days, his compassion is making headlines.

But before he became the toast of the nation (more on that in a little while), let’s go into Carson’s background a bit. Just three short years ago – give or take a few months - Carson was a young Iowa State University student studying psychology. The Prairie City native wasn’t exactly sure where he wanted his degree to take him, but his concentration in criminal justice got him considering his career before he graduated. When he got the chance to join Prairie Meadows as a member of the seasonal security team, he couldn’t resist: He transferred out his credits and got to work in the real world.

It's no surprise that his star rose quickly: The following November he signed on full-time and was named to the Rapid Response Team. Today, he’s also a dual rate sergeant for the horse stables and horseman quarters' racing season.

“The opportunities to grow at Prairie Meadows are amazing. I haven’t even been here three years and I’m already a dual rate sergeant,” said Carson. “I love that I get to train people in skills I think are really important. Plus I really love the people here. It’s a great support system and there’s the added bonus of good pay and great benefits. You really can’t beat that.”

Keeping people safe (and working for Prairie Meadows) seems to run in the family. Carson’s dad Mick is a 17-year veteran of the Altoona police force (27 years in the state of Iowa total) and currently works for the Prairie Meadows Grounds Maintenance crew. Carson’s brother Josh, superintendent of sales for deWit Construction, also worked in security for Prairie Meadows in 2004. Even Carson’s little sister Avery, who is now an Operating Lead at 3M in Ames, worked as a server for AJ’s Steakhouse and Champions.

Carson is proud to have followed in their footsteps and is grateful for the experiences Prairie Meadows has provided him.

“I especially find satisfaction in the medicals,” Carson said. “I had to respond to a cardiac incident once. We started CPR and ended up saving the man after rescue arrived. It was a proud moment.”

And Carson has had a lot of proud moments lately.

What started out as a goofy joke that aired on ESPN September 13 – Carson holding up a hastily scrawled sign that read “Busch Light supply needs replenishing – Venmo – Carson-King-25” – quickly snowballed into a publicist’s dream. Cash began pouring into Carson’s Venmo account at an astonishing rate. It was all in good fun until his deposits reached the $600 mark.

“I saw the number and said to myself: ‘You can do better than beer money,’“ Carson remembered. “I just knew then it was more than a joke. The money could make a real difference.”

After Carson announced he’d be donating the money to Stead Family Children’s Hospital, Anheuser-Busch and Venmo offered to match the amount Carson raised. The king was officially crowned: He was now “Iowa Legend” Carson King.

And the result? That small beer bank he requested “just for fun” now sits at over $3 million.

“The support has been unreal,” he said. “I’ve always known I had a supportive family, but thousands of people I’ve never met were suddenly my biggest champions. And it’s certainly not just love for me. It’s mostly love for the kids.”

There have been many highlights on Carson’s journey thus far: Becoming buddies with WHO-TV’s Keith Murphy, meeting countless celebrities, and being lauded as a hero almost everywhere he goes. But he says the best part of the entire experience is the reason he donated the money in the first place: The families of Stead.

“Hearing from families has been incredible,” Carson said. “One family I met has a 14-month old son who’s spent his entire life in the hospital. They reached out to tell me how fantastic it’s been to see the outpouring of support for kids who are fighting for their lives. And there are also stories of young patients who are alive today because of Stead. One 15-year-old – oh, man, he’s just a light. A beacon. He’s an incredibly inspirational kid. He’s on the Youth Advisory Council at Stead to help make changes that’ll improve the lives of the kids still there. It’s a privilege to know him.”

Carson gets a bit emotional when he talks about the Stead kids and their families. He says his empathetic nature influences all of his reactions and interactions, both personally and professionally, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I consider myself to be a very sensitive person,” he said. “Not so much that I get my feelings hurt easily, but my extreme empathy for people factors into everything I do.”

Including his work here at Prairie Meadows. Carson had dealt with his share of unruly people in his role as a security guard, but has a kindly approach to extreme situations.

“In security, sometimes we encounter unhappy people. They’re acting out but it’s not about you, it’s about them,” he said. ”You don’t always necessarily know why someone is out of control. It’s not anything personal. Maybe something isn’t right at home or at work for them. This is where my empathy kicks in.”

It’s a safe bet that Carson King will never lose perspective on who he is and what he stands for. His advice for anyone faced with a big decision or an unexpected life change is exactly what one would expect from a man who gave away a life-changing sum of money to sick children.

“When it gets tough, just remember who you are,” he said. “Be humble. Be kind. Be an example.”

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