ITHACA, N.Y.—While the GameStop stock craze has mostly died down, one sophomore from Cornell University was able to capitalize on the hectic week or so of the soaring stock price, making $30,000 before turning around and donating some of it to the Children’s Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis, a pediatric hospital in his home state.

Hunter Khan, a sophomore at Cornell, started investing when he was a senior in high school, admitting that his early goals were to save up enough money to buy a Chevy Corvette from the 1990s to impress a girl he had a crush on. But when the investment furor surrounding GameStop exploded in early February, Khan decided to take his winnings and redirect $2,000 toward buying six Nintendo Switches, a few games and credit toward the game system’s marketplace for kids to use.

Khan explained that he wanted to make his donation be a GameStop purchase to pay homage to the stock that brought him the money, which led to him choosing to buy the Switches instead of sending the money in cash form to be used however. He also said he felt like if he was able to donate tangible items instead of money, he would have a better idea how they would be used—Khan made it obvious he wanted the benefit of his donation to go down the chain to patients, instead of up the corporate ladder to executives or administrators.

“I know a lot of people in my community back in Stillwater, Minnesota that hold Children’s in a very special place in their heart,” he said.

A Reddit forum, r/WallStreetBets, served as the epicenter of the stock boom after members noticed over the last several months that large hedge funds were attempting to short GameStop’s stock—or in layman’s terms, bet that it would do poorly in order to make money off of the failings. Realizing this, many of the forum’s members began buying the stock in order to drive the price up, effectively screwing the hedge funds out of millions while those who were able to get in early enough, while the stock’s price was still low, were able to make a handsome profit (though only if they were able to sell the stocks while the price was still high, as it has since descended again).

Khan said that, to him, investing is more of a hobby and side-hustle to make some extra money as opposed to a primary venture. That runs counter to the billionaires that the members of r/WallStreetBets were targeting, many of which condemned the GameStock investors using an “outside agitators” type of narrative; Khan said he even saw someone on television comparing the investors to those who rioted at the Capitol on Jan. 6. In his mind, Khan thought this was a coup by normal, everyday people that wealthier, more experienced traders weren’t prepared to encounter.

“People are saying that we’re manipulating the market or destroying the market, but we’re just playing how the market is supposed to function,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has a problem with the market itself, but it’s a problem with the people up top. They think that we’re just not as good at trading as they are. It’s more of an anarchy toward the people up top who are willing to manipulate the market and go to great lengths to stop the little guy from winning.”

He recognizes that there are plenty of people who can’t participate in the stock market because they lack the disposable income to gamble on the ebbs and flows of Wall Street—another factor in his decision to donate part of his gains.

“As far as me wanting to keep money, I’m young, I’ll have way more opportunities in life to make money,” Khan said, though he did keep a sizable chunk of his investment successes. Part of his motivation was to prove that the group of Reddit-based investors were altruistic as opposed to their hedge fund counterparts that they were rebelling against. “I wanted to do something to say ‘Hey, look, we’re the good guys here.’ I’m young, I’ll be able to bet my money on other things in the future and possibly make plays like this again. Whereas there are people who are in way less fortunate positions and can’t get in on this. That definitely played into why I wanted to donate: I was able to do this, while some people weren’t.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com