‘It’s such such a small gesture that has turned into something so big’ - University of Iowa turns to kids to choose this year’s Hawkeye Wave song

Published: Jul. 17, 2022 at 9:20 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY (KTIV) - It has been five years since the Hawkeye Wave was introduced at University of Iowa football games, and has quickly become a tradition celebrated by the entire college football community.

This year, that tradition is adding something new to the mix.

“It’s that one thing that just brings everybody together,” said Emily Baxter, Child Life Programming Specialist, UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

It’s a tradition the Hawkeye community and college football world has come to love.

“Kids have said things like, ‘Oh my gosh, I feel famous. Look at all these people waving at me,’” said Baxter.

At every football game at Kinnick Stadium since 2017, nearly 70,000 fans in the stands, athletes, coaches, the opposing team, and referees wave to the brave children and families inside Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital at the break between the first and second quarter.

“The other things that they’ve said is, ‘I can feel the support.’ You can feel the love when people are waving at you. Just that simple little gesture of waving,” said Baxter.

Since the start, the Hawkeye Wave has been accompanied by country music singer Pat Green’s song “Wave on Wave.” As the tradition continues on and the University of Iowa searched for a new song, they’ve decided it won’t only be one new song, but an entire new soundtrack.

The university first turned to fans to vote on a new song, but then realized the decision should be left to the true heroes. Starting this year, the Iowa Department of Athletics will now ask each week’s Kid Captain to select their own song to accompany the Hawkeye Wave.

“One of the main things is trying to provide choices whenever possible in the hospital, because there’s not much that they can actually choose. You know, you can’t choose if you take your medicine or not. With this new way that they’re doing the wave song, the ability for those kid captains to choose the wave song... that goes right along with our child life specialist philosophy, because it’s offering kid’s choices,” said Baxter.

For five years the Hawkeye Wave has filled the hospital with smiles and laughter on gameday, and they hope that continues for years to come.

“It’s such such a small gesture that has turned into something so big, and it means so much to these kids and to their families,” said Baxter.

The Kid Captain Program began in 2009 to honor UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital patients, and to celebrate their inspirational stories. A Kid Captain is picked for each Iowa football game, and each child selected receives a commemorative jersey, special recognition from the hospital and the football team, and other behind-the-scenes activities.

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