Birth of the Iowa Tradition That Went Viral

Birth of the Iowa Tradition That Went Viral

A few weeks ago we were among the crowd cheering on the University of Iowa Hawkeyes against Wyoming. Although I’ve been an Iowa fan my entire life, this was the first time I attended one of their football games. It wasn’t the football team that finally drew us to the game though. Our entire family was there to support my niece for her inaugural performance with the University of Iowa Marching Band Drumline.

As luck would have it, that’s not the only inaugural thing that happened that day.

We were at Kinnick Stadium for the inaugural 1st Quarter Hawkeye Wave. Learn more about the birth of the tradition that went viral. -

At the end of the first quarter, people all around me started waving. Sporting events are riddled with traditions so I figured it was some kind of longstanding tradition to wave to those on the other side of the field. Some kind of community bonding or something. It’s Iowa after all and we’re friendly like that. We didn’t know but when in Rome… so we waved too.

The roaring and even more waves took shape as the public announcement cleared it all up. The recipients of this gush of Iowa love weren’t in the stadium at all. We were all waving at the people watching the game from the top floor of the building next door overlooking Kinnick Stadium. No, this wasn’t some fancy hi-rise or expensive box seats for those with money to burn. These fans were children and their families who temporarily call Iowa City their home.

We were at Kinnick Stadium for the inaugural 1st Quarter Hawkeye Wave. Learn more about the birth of the tradition that went viral. -

The building? The University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. When it was built, the plan was to have a way for the children and their families to enjoy the game. Last year when we delivered our holiday gift guide donations, they gave us a brief tour and you could hear the pride in their voices as they shared about the project.

At the time, I had no idea we would be part of a new tradition involving the hospital, the children and the University of Iowa football program.


But we were and every time I read more about it, I get teary-eyed with pride. Not for being part of the tradition, but for being from a state that took prime real estate and earmarked it for children stuck in a hospital. For being in the crowd with people like Krista Young who sparked the idea and individuals who realized the world doesn’t revolve around football – or any other game, sport or event. For being part of a movement that transcends politics and entertainment and unites the community. For seeing fans, officials, players alike all recognizing that something as simple as a smile and a wave can move mountains. It was a great feeling to be there.

I first realized the magnitude when it was shared on SportCenter. Then friends began sharing it over and over again on Facebook. All with different sources: The Washington Post, Reddit, BuzzFeedCBS Sports, ABC News, Business Insider and a multitude of local networks. I smiled when I saw it mentioned on The Today Show.

We were at Kinnick Stadium for the inaugural 1st Quarter Hawkeye Wave. Learn more about the birth of the tradition that went viral. -

Even industry professionals such as David Housel, former Auburn University Sports Information & Athletic Director, chimed in.

We were at Kinnick Stadium for the inaugural 1st Quarter Hawkeye Wave. Learn more about the birth of the tradition that went viral. -

I’ve participated in traditions before, but nothing like this – especially not when it first happened. I’m proud to be among those.

Kudos to the University of Iowa and all the people who helped make this a reality.


About Nicole

Founder and owner of, Nicole has been involved in social media marketing since 2007. She has partnered with a number of major corporations who utilized her skills to improve their social media outreach and online presence. Nicole has worked closely with brands such as Netflix, Nintendo, Domino's and Disney, has been featured in McDonald's videos as well as Maria Bailey's book "Power Moms". Always a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) and mother of two amazing daughters, if you can't find Nicole, she is probably somewhere being an advocate for playing board games.

23 comments on «Birth of the Iowa Tradition That Went Viral»

  1. ellen beck says:

    My husband is being treated there for cancer (Iowa City) and during the course, the childrens wing was being built. In the past the kids were on a regular floor, and truthfully it was much like any other ward. We had to pass their ward on our way to the department hubby visited.
    They began work on the kids wing (Stead) shortly after he started going there. They started with a wonderful playground…. and the kids were smiling again. The kids wing was finally completed, and it was a beautiful thing. My neighbor, a union carpenter here in Waterloo was one of many who helped build it.
    It is beautiful there, and very kids friendly. Not at all like the rest of the hospital at all. The kids are ill but it is a whole different atmosphere. We went up and visited the new wing, and hubby said he wouldntmind staying there himself!
    It’s great they can see the game, I am glad Stead was designed so those that wanted to could see it. And the wave? A wonderous thing.
    Thanks for posting about it, it truly is a great hospital.

    1. Nicole says:

      Thank you for sharing your perspective, Ellen. I’ve not seen it from the inside as you and your husband have and appreciate what you’ve contributed to our story. Hearing how a hospital, something often cold and sad, has been transformed into a place that returns a smile to a child’s face is remarkable. I’m sorry your husband is battling cancer and hope the University of Iowa is doing all they can to cure him. Yes, it truly is a great hospital and solidifies our desire to support it.

  2. Nichole says:

    What an amazing new tradition to start! I’ve only been to a handful of college games myself, and the traditions are all so typical. This is wonderful!

  3. Neely Moldovan says:

    I love that tradition! College football games are some of the most fun to go to for the sake of tradition!

  4. jenny says:

    That is amazing to get to take part in! Kudos to the planners who realized how much this would mean to the kdis in the hospital!

  5. Liz Mays says:

    This is such an awesome tradition! It’s really cool that all the fans do this. The children must love it!

  6. What a great way to brighten the day for the kiddos in the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital! Now this is a tradition that I can get behind!

  7. Kudos to the people of Iowa. That’s an amazing tradition. It must be fun and memorable experiencce to be part of that tradition.

  8. Awwww, this was such a heartwarming story. How neat that you got to be a part of it!

  9. Carrie says:

    I never knew this! This is such a great tradition! I hope it continues for a long time as I am sure that this little bit of joy really help those kids and families!

  10. Hannah Vu says:

    This is awesome! Wish I had chance to be a part of such tradition! It is very meaningful to all of the children, their families and the participants there.

  11. My favourite thing about the fall season is watching football. This is such a beautiful story and tradition

  12. My husband and my son are huge sports’ fans. They would have really enjoyed attending this event and cheering on one of the teams. Me, I’m more of a reality TV kind of girl.

  13. Elizabeth Gilbert says:

    Football is a tradition that even here in Texas plays a huge role in Autumn/Fall events. I live in a small town in Texas where football takes over even the “bigger” radio stations at night. I love reading this and this was an incredible article!

  14. Katie says:

    What an incredible tradition. Thanks for sharing this – so cool to read about your experience. <3

  15. My sister is a Hawkeye and I’m a Huskie., I love this tradition and it’s cool you were a part of it. Things like these my college football amazing.

  16. This post literally brought me to tears. So amazing. Makes me want to go to a game there now LOL

  17. Kristine Nicole Alessandra says:

    Oh this is so heatwarming. I love this tradition that Iowa started. This will definitely brighten a child’s day.

  18. My son is in his senior year as a Hawkeye – what a great town, great community and amazing new tradition! Love it!

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