As thousands of football fans cheer for the Hawkeyes in Kinnick stadium, just a few hundred feet above the sea of black and gold, patients and families have a bird’s eye view from the new UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. On September 2, at the end of the first quarter, the hospital fell silent as 70,000 fans looked up and waved to the patients.
“A tremendous amount of excitement ensued,” said Gwen Senio, the child life specialist who helped coordinate “The Wave” with Iowa athletics. “For a moment, they forget where they are—no one expected a social media post to grow into something so special.
Hawkeye parent Kristi Young wrote the Facebook post, “I think with the children’s hospital open, Kinnick should hold a 'wave to the kids’ minute during every game. Can you imagine how neat it would be to have all those fans, players, and coaching staff looking up at you, sending a little inspiration?”
From there, the post exploded, and a new Iowa tradition was born. NBC, ESPN, ABC, and Fox covered the story. Young says she gets mail from around the world praising her idea. Bleacher Report tweeted, “This is the best tradition in college football!”
The Wave is about so much more than sports. It’s about recognizing the innocent warriors who are fighting every day for a chance at life. Every time that first quarter ends, no one cares about the score, and both teams—players, coaches, officials, and fans—look up and wave to the hospitalized children.
Senio says her favorite part is after the game, when you see the smudges on the windows. “You can feel the physical connection between the kids and the fans,” she said. “I don’t think this tradition will ever die.”