Sport continues to play an important role in our society, as it still brings people together from a wide range of backgrounds. Whether it be football, soccer, basketball or baseball, sport is all inclusive when it comes to value and tradition. In the case of Iowa native Tricia Schwager, though, she was left speechless and emotional when asked to “watch for the wave” from a hospital window during a football game.
Schwager, like so many other unfortunate parents across the country, has a child in the hospital. The subsequent toll that must take is almost unimaginable, but her family isn’t alone. In fact, Iowa’s college football team and their thousands of fans are looking to ease some of that pain with a simple, yet powerful, gesture.
Schwager’s son Quinton is one of the patients at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, which opened in early 2017. The building overlooks the Iowa Hawkeyes’ Kinnick Stadium, which holds a capacity of more than 70,000. Now thanks to an innocent suggestion via social media, the two have formed a beautiful connection at the end of the first quarter.
At that point in the game, both the fans and players turn towards the hospital and wave at the watching children and their families. Meanwhile, during the halftime break, the team’s marching band also forms a giant waving hand for those at the hospital. Although the gesture only started this season, it’s quickly become a new tradition for the Hawkeyes.
Schwager told Channel 13 News of the wave, “This is very, very awesome, very awesome.” She explained, “My son was having a hard time being here, but having this to look forward to has really made it a little more easy. I’ve already had friends text me and say ‘watch for the wave, we’re going to wave to you’, because they’re out there and we’re up here.”
Unsurprisingly, the gesture provoked an appreciative response from Schwager. “That is going to be very, very special,” she added. “I’m very emotional right now just being here. It’s very special. I’m very glad we’ve gotten this opportunity, and the rest of these people can also.”
Those words will no doubt be music to the ears of Krista Young, the woman who first suggested the wave idea over the summer. “Kinnick should hold a ‘wave to the kids’ minute during every game,” she posted on Facebook. “Can you imagine how neat it would be to have all of those fans, players, & coaching staff looking up at you sending a little extra inspiration?”
Young made that post on the Hawkeye Heaven Facebook page, created for fans of the university’s athletics. No more than an hour passed, though, before the moderator of the page read her post, responding that they’d be “pushing for this.” From there, the wheels were set in motion to create something very special for the children of the hospital.
Young recalled to CNN, “It was just a quick thought.” She explained, “I just typed it on a whim and that’s all it took.” While a month went by with no update on the situation, Hawkeye Heaven started to post photos on Facebook that suggested something was in the works.
One such photo saw a child overlooking Kinnick Stadium from a hospital window, with a fantastic view of the football field. The caption read, “Let’s make it a tradition after the 1st quarter of every home game to have everyone in Kinnick wave to the kids and their families watching from The University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.” It urged fans, “Please continue to pass this on!”
The Hawkeyes began their season with a home game against Wyoming on September 2, 2017, with Young one of the thousands in attendance. When the first quarter came to a close, she was unsure if anything would occur, but that soon changed. Within moments, everyone in the stadium started to wave in the direction of the hospital.
The reaction to the Hawkeyes’ call to action blew Young away. She told USA Today, “I expected several little groups to do it. I knew it had gotten out there. I didn’t expect this.”
Since then, the wave has continued to grow in popularity as the season has progressed, carrying over into the Hawkeyes’ away games. The gesture was captured on Twitter during their clash with Michigan State, while the set of ESPN’s pregame show College Gameday also saw the wave make an appearance. That particular broadcast was made from Blacksburg, Virginia, indicating that the cause was spreading.
This new tradition certainly appears to have made an impact on the children. Manager of child life at the hospital Gwen Senio noted the positive effects. She told CNN, “They’re not thinking about how they’re feeling – they’re just thinking about what’s happening beyond that window. Being a part of that is good medicine.”
Senio added, “What I noticed early on is that after The Wave, the windows are covered with little handprints and smudges.” Moreover, she asserted, “To me, that was just such a heartwarming recognition that there was a connection between the children here in the hospital and what’s happening out in the stadium.” With that in mind, the wave shows no sign of stopping at present.
The Hawkeyes’ head coach of 19 seasons Kirk Ferentz certainly believes that. He told CNN, “I think it’ll be there as long as the stadium and the hospital are side by side. I just can’t envision it ever stopping.”
As for Young, she’s also delighted with how things have turned out, just months after first suggesting it. She told USA Today, “I just thought it would be cool to acknowledge them up there. It’s turned into so much more.”
While Tricia Schwager was overcome with emotion after seeing the wave firsthand, her son Quinton was just as pleased. “It’s pretty cool,” he told Channel 13 News. “It’s the first time I’ve ever watched a football game.”
He continued, “It’s going to be cool that they all can cheer us on up here.” When asked if he’d brag about the experience to his friends, Quinton responded with a smile. He added, “They’re just going to be jealous, and wishing they were here.”
Sport and its traditions have the power to change people’s lives for the better, regardless who you are. For patients and families at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, a tradition has arisen to lift spirits. Thankfully, the Iowa Hawkeyes’ wave now feels like the equivalent of a touchdown for those children and their appreciative parents.