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Wendy’s ‘nugget boy’ using his fame for good

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In this undated photo from Twitter, Carter Wilkerson is seen eating what is likely the start of a year's worth of chicken nuggets. The young man bested Ellen DeGeneres' Twitter record for the most retweets. In this undated photo from Twitter, Carter Wilkerson is seen eating what is likely the start of a year's worth of chicken nuggets. The young man bested Ellen DeGeneres' Twitter record for the most retweets. (photo courtesy of @ CarterJWM via Twitter)

A year’s worth of free chicken nuggets is just the beginning

Last month, 16-year-old Carter Wilkerson of Reno, Nevada, tweeted a question to Wendy’s.

“Yo Wendy’s,” his tweet began. “How many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets?” When Wendy’s responded with “18 Million,” Wilkerson replied “Consider it done.”

As of this writing, Wilkerson has more than 3.5 million retweets - surpassing Ellen DeGeneres’ 2014 Oscar selfie retweet - to become the most retweeted tweet in Twitter history. That was enough for Wendy’s to grant him a year of free nuggets and for Ellen to gift him a year’s supply of her famous underwear and a 55-inch TCL Roku 4k TV when he visited her show.

“I had a little hope, but not a lot,” Wilkerson told me during a phone interview after I asked if he was confident that he could mobilize enough Twitter users to help him reach his goal. “I guess a little hope can take you a long way. I didn’t get 18 million retweets, but I’ll take that year of free nuggets!”

When Ellen DeGeneres realized that her famous Oscar tweet was in danger of being bested, she enlisted actor Bradley Cooper to join her in a mock “The More You Know” public service announcement.

 Cooper: “We need your help. Ellen and I are dangerously close to losing our title of the most retweeted Tweet of all-time. This nugget kid needs your help to reach his goal but we need your help more. We put our heart and our soul into that selfie. I had to hold my arm up like this for 35 or 40 seconds. My biceps were shaking.” 

DeGeneres:“And I was sitting on Meryl Streep’s lap for an uncomfortably long time. We earned this title and we’re not going to lose it now. Please retweet our selfie. Do it today and be a part of history.”

“It’s absolutely insane to think that Ellen was talking about me and Bradley Cooper knew who I was,” Wilkerson says. “These are like hugely famous people and I’m just this 16-year-old kid from Reno who had no experience with anything before this.”

Less than two weeks after his original tweet, Wilkerson was invited to the Ellen show to be playfully grilled by DeGeneres about his intentions.

“So you’re hot on my heels,” Ellen began. “Why are you trying to sabotage my selfie? I worked really hard. That holds the record and you’re trying to pass me up.”

Wilkerson replied, “You know, honestly, I just want chicken nuggets.”

“Ellen and all of her people were just fantastic,” Wilkerson told me of his visit to the show. “Their hospitality was amazing. I think they were almost more excited to have me on the show than I was excited to be there. It was cool to see their energy and their readiness for me.”

Wilkerson says he’s not entirely sure how many chicken nuggets is a year’s worth.

“They’re going to send me gift cards for them or something. They said it will be a year’s worth but I’m not sure exactly how that is going to work.”

In addition to the nuggets, Wendy’s is also making a donation of $100,000 in Wilkerson’s name to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

“I feel so great that I’ve raised $100,000 for kids in need,” Wilkerson continues. “I’m a pretty fortunate kid and there is really nothing that I need. It’s great to be able to do something good with this. It’s just so surreal and amazing.”

Wilkerson says his newfound celebrity has its drawbacks. “There are definitely some people that I haven’t been in contact with for a while that have been trying to mooch off my free chicken nuggets. I’ve gotta watch my back now,” he said with a laugh.

Realizing that fame can be a fickle beast, Wilkerson has decided to use it for good while he has it.

“There’s a local charity I’ve been involved with for a while called Moms on The Run which supports women with breast cancer by helping their families get through it,” he says. “My mom had stage three breast cancer when I was younger so I feel really connected to the cause. They always have a run on Mother’s Day, so we’ve been doing that for the past few years since she’s gotten through it.”

Wilkerson has created the website to raise funds for the charity by selling T-shirts.

“We’ve had orders from all over the world, from Germany to Dubai. It’s been so great to see people who want to support the charity and help out,” Wilkerson says.

I asked Wilkerson if he has considered tweeting Harvard or Yale to ask how may retweets it might take to receive free tuition in a couple of years.

“You know, I actually haven’t, so thanks for the idea because that would be pretty nice, for sure.”

The new Twitter king drops a possible hint regarding his next move.

“Who knows? Maybe I could be the next spokesperson for Wendy’s.”


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