A new tradition was born this year in Iowa City. The Stead Family Children’s Hospital was completed before this year’s Hawkeye football season opened. It is a beautiful silver building that towers over Kinnick Stadium.

According to the website:

University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital has been dedicated to meeting the health care needs of children and families since 1919. As Iowa’s only comprehensive children’s hospital, we provide care for children from birth to young adulthood. Services range from promoting wellness to the care of general childhood illness, surgery, traumatic injuries, life-threatening and chronic illnesses, and developmental disabilities. As part of an academic medical center, UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital also performs groundbreaking research to help solve the mysteries of childhood diseases, in addition to training the next generation of health care professionals.

That’s a pretty impressive claim and definitely lofty work. Iowa is lucky to have such a world-renowned facility right here in our backyard. More 170 pediatric physicians and surgeons, more than 500 specially trained pediatric nurses who last year cared for more than 67,239 patients from every county in Iowa, nearly every state in the United States and from countries far and wide.

The building itself is a beautiful architectural marvel of curved steel and glass. That glass overlooks the legendary brick and mortar stadium that has sat in the center of Iowa City since 1929, known far and wide as Kinnick Stadium. Kinnick Stadium was named after the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner and Iowa Halfback, Nile Kinnick. Kinnick died during WW2 in 1943.

The black and gold wearing Hawkeye fans revere Kinnick Stadium, but they have more than welcomed their shiny steel and glass neighbor…the Stead Hospital. A grassroots tradition has been born this year. After the end of the first quarter of football play, every fan and player takes a moment to wave to the children and their families watching the game from their hospital rooms.

If you’ve never seen it, it is a sweet scene oddly set in the middle of a sporting event. The new tradition was welcomed with smiles and nods of appreciation from every Hawkeye fan I’ve ever talked to. ESPN literally disregarded their scheduled commercials to fully televise it earlier this season. No one argues that it’s pretty cool.

As I writer, I’ve written and shared pieces about the Hawkeye Wave. It’s a source of pride for Iowa City, my hometown, so why not? But one picture brought me to tears today and made me realize it’s so much more than a wave.

As I saw this picture the wave meant something more to me. The girl in the picture looking out to an empty Kinnick stadium is three years old. She’s the sweetest thing you ever saw. She’s the daughter of good friends of mine and tomorrow she will have open heart surgery.

The doctors are confident in their ability, but the risks are real. If all goes well, on Saturday night she will be recovering in her bed and she will be able to witness 60,000+ Hawkeye fans wave and for just a moment pause their game, with a nod to things so much more important. Things that effect people forever. Life and death kind of things that happen every single day on the inside of the glass of the children’s hospital.

So, don’t be too upset if the Hawks lose or a call goes against our home team. Eat, drink, and be merry at the tailgate parties, but don’t take your wave lightly. To those in Kinnick Stadium, it’s simply a pause to the action and waving at an anonymous glass building. To those who are on the other side of the glass, what they are facing is no game and can have consequences that last long after bowl season is over.

I’m proud of our new tradition to take even just a few seconds and tip our hats to those in a tough spot as we yell and scream at college kids throwing a ball around.

I can promise you what goes on inside the shiny glass building is nothing short of life-changing. So, Hawkeye faithful, have fun, enjoy the game, even wave, but be thankful you’re at a football game and not preparing your three-year-old for open heart surgery.

The wave is a glimpse of humanity stopping their selfishness for just a moment to say, “I love you” to those enduring and suffering so much more than 3rd and inches.

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