King of Iowa: Unintentional act of kindness touches local PV family


Chris Kohn

Will Kohn, the first patient in the new University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, never failed to keep a smile on his face, even during treatment.

Caitlin Crome, Social Media Manager

While just 60 miles separate Pleasant Valley students from the University of Iowa, the generosity of Iowa native Carson King has been felt much closer to home.

What started as a plea for enough money to purchase a case of beer turned into a multi-million dollar fundraiser, inspiring a nation of people to give to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

The Kohn family has been directly affected by such donations. Will Kohn, son of PV biology teacher and Bettendorf native Chris Kohn, was the hospital’s very first patient in February of 2017.

Will was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare birth defect in which the left side of the heart, the side that pumps oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body, is underdeveloped.

In 2013, Will went into his first surgery at the University of Iowa. Before even starting, the doctors concluded his heart was too weak to withstand the operation and that a future heart transplant was the best option. In 2014, Will was placed on the official heart transplant list.

For about six years, Will was able to live the life of a normal young boy and even started kindergarten. In 2017, Will was officially admitted into the hospital because of heart complications. He remained in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital for continuous care, medications, and monitoring.

Will received his new heart, but his family was met with more devastating news when doctors diagnosed the little fighter with large B-cell lymphoma in 2018. By that time, Will’s body was too weak to fight off the violent illness and he lost his battle a few weeks later.

Even though Will’s journey did not end the way his family and countless supporters had hoped, Will’s parents said they will forever be grateful for the care and support they received from the Stead Family Children’s Hospital. “We still are in contact with some of the doctors and nurses…we saw them on a daily basis and they turned pretty quickly into family,” said Chris Kohn.

He, along with many others, is inspired by King’s efforts. “It is cool to watch something so small, grow to three million dollars,” Chris Kohn said. “There are a lot of good things that happen in that hospital that don’t have the necessary funding.”

Will’s time in the hospital was made more manageable by the services of a program called Child Life, which relies on donations for its continued success. The program exists to focus on a child’s emotional and developmental needs, providing patients with everything from toys and crafts to confidence-building and stress management.

“Will would get random LEGOS if they just knew he was bored for the day,” mentioned Chris Kohn. “They tried to figure out some normalcy for the kids.”

The Stead Family Children’s Hospital is a place dedicated to not only saving the lives of children from all over the world, but is also performs research to help find answers to unsolved diseases and illnesses. This is one of the biggest elements that sets this hospital apart from the rest. Because they are responsible for so many important tasks,donations are always appreciated.

On Oct. 11, King was honored for his efforts during a media event hosted by the hospital, during which it was reported that all 50 states contributed to help King raise a total of just over $3 million dollars for the children’s hospital.

King’s efforts have made an extensive impact on the hospital. The University of Iowa reported that his donations have helped to ease the financial pressures for families when their child is hospitalized. Costs, such as hotels, meals, gas and pharmacy copays can add up. King’s donation will help to remove such burdens for patients’ families.

From King’s generosity comes the question, “How can more people get involved and donate?”

“This was a great three million dollars, but it took something to do that,” said Kohn. “If people would just donate on a routine basis, the Stead Family Children’s Hospital and other places would be able to do more.”

And media attention is something the hospital has not lacked since it opened two years ago, overlooking the University of Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium. One of Iowa’s newest traditions which has received national attention is The Iowa Wave.

This tradition takes place after the first quarter of every home football game. Nearly 70,000 people wave together from Kinnick Stadium to the children watching from the hospital. Through the sale of merchandise, the Iowa Wave Shirt has donated nearly $1 million to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

It was patients like Will who inspired King’s impactful donation. From a thank you letter King released to the media in September, he wrote, “I want to give a special thanks to the kids and families of Stead Family Children’s Hospital who have shared their stories. Your stories remind us why this is all worth it.”

According to an article by USA Today, King is now getting back to his normal life in Altoona, Iowa after a pretty hectic month of media attention. But he plans to continue making a difference. “This hasn’t soaked in for me yet,” King said. “I think I found a passion here with fundraising and charity.”

Because of the efforts from people like King, children like Will are given a fighting chance at recovery and a new life. And the incredible team of supporters from the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital stand ready to make that chance become a reality.