New Hawkeye tradition is now a national hug


I was trolling Facebook this morning and ran across a post from a friend who said she’s crying at the end of the first quarter of every Hawkeye home game.

It’s become a national cuddle every Saturday at Iowa home games when roughly 70,000 people turn and give a wave, and for sure some smiles, to the children and families peaking over the east side of Kinnick Stadium from the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s hospital.


Saturday night the fans added a twist (see video on if you missed it- and one of the worst-best games I’ve ever seen the Hawkeyes play) and turned the flashlights on. Fans waved like a star-studded black-n-gold blanket and cheered wildly for the children and families in the oval shaped steel wonder of architecture.

I don’t recall reading anything (and I read quite a bit) about that hospital being built so those kids could watch the football games perched above all else. But what a genius and compassionate decision.

She’s right. We were there when the tradition started against Wyoming and we were sitting in a spot where we could actually see the kids waving back through the slightly tinted windows last night. It was emotional. Even more so for me, and I would assume, my wife.

Our daughter, who’s attending the University now was seated in the student section. When the crowd waved it took me back to when she was in the Pediatric intensive care unit at U of I Hospitals and Clinics for four days after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. In the grand scheme of things she has a condition as far as I’m concerned. One that, because of the relentless pursuit of a cure of this disease that costs Americans $12 billion annually, takes a toll on her body every day, but she courageously goes about building her future with this beast lingering in the back of her mind.

Almost one year ago, she had a seizure at home and if it wasn’t for a quick thinking friend who spent the night, who alerted mom and dad, things could have turned out worse than they did. But I witnessed what that disease is. Right then and there. The U of I medical team that trained her mom and I on what to do in those situations, in my mind, saved her life that day. But with what they do and groups like JDRF, Dexcom, OneTouch, and others, her life is literally saved every day.

We were at a restaurant on a day after an appointment where our daughter had been poked and prodded for about 3 hours checking all her blood levels not even a year after her diagnosis. She had to take an injection of insulin before eating. She doesn’t have to do that now thanks to advances in technology, a pump does it for her. But at that time, she discreetly did it under the table. A woman sitting across the way noticed the injection and came over and told us she was offended that our daughter would do that at the table.

I told the lady to go back to her table. My wife lost… her… mind. The ready-for-jail – like lost her mind.

Those of you that know Lee know her to be extremely mild-mannered. She exploded. We removed ourselves from that situation, but it’s something that at the time, I thought, this is who we are? We’re this self-consumed and cold that this could happen in Iowa?

The restaurant went above and beyond their role in the ordeal and several people came over and apologized. Two weeks ago when we attended the game and the crowd waved and those children and families waved back, I thought about that moment. In a flash of cheers and smiles and tears, I thought of my daughter who was sitting over in the student section of the college that she’s wanted to attend since she was a kid.

These children are battling for their lives up there with diseases and conditions more critical than Type 1 Diabetes, and one can’t help but think that kind of human emotional energy is having some kind of impact. It’s palpable. You can fill it on your skin. ESPN hangs out over the first quarter deciding not to make money with commercials, but to show America what’s happening in Iowa.

National news networks have been carrying and commenting on the new tradition.  On the way up to Iowa City Saturday afternoon, I suggested to my wife that Kinnick can never get away from it. She said they should never, ever stop doing it. It should happen forever. Short of moving that stadium or that hospital these kids get a wave of love and support about six times a year from 70,000 people.

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