'This means a lot:' 2017 Kid Captains honored at University of Iowa

13 pediatric patients to represent the Hawkeyes football team this season

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IOWA CITY — When the senior members of the Iowa Hawkeyes football team ran onto the Kinnick Stadium field Saturday, 11-year-old Laurel Schaul ran with them.

It wasn’t long ago that doctors thought there was little chance the Springville girl would walk again, let alone run. So there was a huge smile on her face as she joined the other 2017 Kid Captains on the field before the team played a scrimmage for Kids Day.

Schaul and the other 12 Kid Captains were there as representatives of the countless children who battle illness and injury and receive treatment at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. The program, which began in 2009, honors pediatric patients and their families; each Kid Captain will represent the hospital at one football game this season.

Laurel was playing with friends when an accident left her with intense back pain, and as they drove to the hospital, she told her mother she could no longer move her legs. She was referred to the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where doctors removed a large blood clot from her spine, and she was given a 10 to 15 percent chance of walking again. With physical therapy and determination, she has beaten those odds.

“This means a lot,” said her father Larry Schaul of his daughter being selected as a Kid Captain. “We owe a great amount of gratitude to the UI for making our daughter walk again. To be able to see her run, that’s pretty impressive.”

This year’s Kid Captains were selected from 232 nominations and represent a range of specialties and services at the hospital.

Maddox Smith, 9, of Coralville, will be the Kid Captain at the Iowa vs. Illinois game on Saturday, Oct. 7. He has neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves, for which there is no treatment or cure. When he was 7, intense headaches led doctors to discover a large, life-threatening brain tumor, unrelated to his neurofibromatosis. Surgeons removed the tumor, and today Maddox has five titanium plates in his head.

His father Mike Smith said he never imagined his son would have to deal with so much. The Kinnick visit, which included a backstage tour, was a celebration, of sorts, of what they’d overcome.

“Looking at him, you’d never know that a year ago he was in bed, recovering from brain surgery,” he said. “This is an awesome experience for the kids, and it’s nice to be recognized for all we’ve been through.”

Asked how he stayed strong through all of his medical struggles, Maddox shrugged and smiled.

“I just power through. I don’t know how,” he said.

MEET THE KID CAPTAINS

Here are the 2017 University of Iowa Kid Captains and the Iowa football game in which they’ll be taking part:

Sept. 2 versus Wyoming — Jaelyn Butikofer, 7, Manchester.

Sept. 9 at Iowa State — Flynn Lanferman, 12, Mount Pleasant.

Sept. 16 versus North Texas — Sam Spore, 15, Dysart.

Sept. 23 versus Penn State — Drew Steffen, 10, Atkins.

Sept. 30 at Michigan State — Camdyn Reisner, 11, Dubuque.

Oct. 7 versus Illinois — Maddox Smith, 9, Coralville.

Oct. 21 at Northwestern — Hayden Wheatley, 2, Hamilton, Ill.

Oct. 28 versus Minnesota — Leah McClain, 11, Pittsfield, Ill.

Nov. 4 versus Ohio State — Logan Manderfield, 13, Waucoma.

Nov. 11 at Wisconsin — Cooper Foster, 9, Central City.

Nov. 18 versus Purdue — Laurel Schaul, 11, Springville.

Nov. 24 at Nebraska — Landon Wilkerson, 7, Montezuma.

Postseason — Hunter Fasse, 10, Shell Rock.

l Comments: (319) 398-8434; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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