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Throwback Thursday: Hawkeyes’ First Wave to University of Iowa Children’s Hospital

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Waving to the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital will forever be an incredible experience.

NCAA Football: North Texas at Iowa
Iowa’s first wave came on September 2, 2017.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 season wasn’t a particularly notable one for the Iowa Hawkeyes on the field. They finished the regular season just 7-5 and while that included a thrilling 44-41 win over Iowa State in Ames, a 56-14 thrashing of Nebraska in Lincoln and an unforgettable 55-24 win over Ohio State in Kinnick, it was still just an 8-5 season after a Pinstripe Bowl win over Boston College.

But despite the mediocre final record, 2017 was a special year for Iowa fans. On September 2, 2017, as the Hawkeyes played host to Wyoming in the season opener, the best new tradition in college football was born.

During the break between the first and second quarters, 70,585 fans stopped worrying about sports, turned and waved to the kids in the recently completed UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. It was a surreal moment.

For anyone who has participated, it’s hard to describe the feeling you get while waving. It’s both happiness and sadness wrapped into one.

You look up and see the signs, enlarged hands and young faces smiling down at you from across the street. The video board blares some of the backstory with touching shots of various children who have received treatment at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, which has been in operation since 1919 and cared for 83,937 children from all 99 Iowa counties, 45 states, and 20 other countries last year. Pat Green’s Wave on Wave plays in the background and the PA system draws your attention to those we’re actually waving to.

As you soak it all in, you don’t have to have had care at UIHC or know someone impacted by the work being done there, you don’t have to be a parent or really even know anyone with young kids to feel emotional - you just need to be a human being. It’s an incredible experience of pure good.

Doing it for the first time in September of 2017 was a bit surreal. There had been chatter about doing something during the summer, but what exactly it would look like was unclear. Would the kids even be able to tell what was happening? Would it mean anything to them if they could? Would we be able to see them? Is it really as simple as just waving?

Yes.

Yes to all of it. It is the best new tradition in college sports and it’s for exactly those reasons. It is perfect in its simplicity. You don’t have to do anything special other than take 30 seconds out of your Saturday to show those in need that you notice them. You understand what they are going through must be difficult and that you care. If you haven’t been directly impacted, you’ll never truly know what they are going through, but you don’t have to. You just have to wave.

And wave Iowa fans have continued to do. There are t-shirts with proceeds going to the children’s hospital, songs, videos and so much more. But we continue to wave after every 1st quarter. Recruits and visiting teams and their fans are eager to participate. We’ve seen Big Ten brethren and opponents far and wide tip their cap by doing the same even when not in Iowa City. The wave is infectious,

No matter how many times you do it, how many times you watch the video specials from whichever network is covering the day’s game or read about the stories behind the glass, it’s difficult not to feel emotional throughout that moment.

Sports are emotional. The Wave is the best of sports.


The work being done at the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital is truly incredible. Patients come from all over the state, country and across the globe for world class treatment. It truly is life changing what the myriad employees who make it run are doing.

Thank you to all our essential workers - now, in this global pandemic, and every day. Your work matters and we all appreciate you.

If you’d like to do more to participate in The Wave, please consider giving to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. There are lots of ways to give back, big and small. Every little bit helps to save lives and you can quite literally see your gift put to work seven Saturdays a year.