University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital announces 2017 Kid Captains

Meet the young patients who will be honored as captains during Iowa football games

The University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital has announced the 13 children, all patients at the hospital, named 2017 Kid Captains. The children will serve as Kid Captains during Iowa football games this season. (University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital photos)
The University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital has announced the 13 children, all patients at the hospital, named 2017 Kid Captains. The children will serve as Kid Captains during Iowa football games this season. (University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital photos)

IOWA CITY — University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital on Wednesday announced its 2017 Kid Captains lineup.

Thirteen current and former patients at the hospital have been selected to represent the hospital as Kid Captains during the Iowa Hawkeyes’ 2017 football season.

The Kid Captain program started in 2009 as a partnership between the hospital and the Iowa Hawkeyes to honor pediatric patients and celebrate their inspirational stories. This year’s Kid Captains were selected from 232 nominations from five states.

“This year we have a great group of Kid Captains, all of whom have shown an incredible level of strength, courage and determination while still being kids,” Scott Turner, executive director of UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, said in a news release. “Every year I am amazed by the bravery and dedication these patients and their families exhibit, and they all fully represent why we are focused on changing kids’ lives.”

All Kid Captains and their families are invited to Kids Day at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday for a behind-the-scenes tour. Each child’s story is highlighted at


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:



Jaelyn Butikofer, 7, Manchester

Sept. 2 vs. Wyoming


Jaelyn first came to the hospital in December 2010 when she was 10 months old. She wasn’t gaining weight, and her local doctor referred her for “failure to thrive.” She weighed just 10 pounds. After seven years of extensive testing, doctors believe that Jaelyn likely has a rare disorder, or multiple rare disorders, and are still trying to determine the cause of her underlying condition.



Flynn Lanferman, 12, Mount Pleasant

Sept. 9 @ Iowa State

A persistent fever, mysterious bruising and a stubborn nosebleed gave 3-year-old Flynn’s local pediatrician cause for concern. When results from blood tests came back, it was determined Flynn had leukemia. In the last nine years, Flynn has had three relapses. He has undergone years of chemotherapy, three bone marrow transplants and he has been diagnosed with testicular cancer. His most recent recovery has been going well, and he’s planning to start sixth grade this year.



Sam Spore, 15, Dysart

Sept. 16 vs. North Texas

Sam was born in Uganda with hydrocephalus, spina bifida, a birth defect in which bones don’t properly form around the spinal cord, and malformations in his bowel and bladder. He lived in an orphanage where specialized medical care wasn’t readily available, but he was adopted in 2015. When Sam came to Iowa, he and his new family met with the pediatric surgery and urology teams at the hospital and he began to receive the medical care he needed.



Drew Steffen, 10, Atkins

Sept. 23 vs. Penn State

Drew was born with severe congenital heart disease that went undetected until he became very sick at 8 days old. Upon examination, his local pediatrician discovered his heart was racing and lungs were full of fluid. He was taken by ambulance to a Waterloo hospital, where tests the next day showed the fluid in his lungs was due to heart failure. Drew was transferred by AirCare to Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where the pediatric cardiology team was waiting. At minimum, Drew would need a series of three open-heart surgeries, several trips to the pediatric catheterization lab and intense cardiology care to survive.



Camdyn Reisner, 11, Dubuque

Sept. 30 @ Michigan State


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Camdyn was a seemingly healthy newborn when she stopped breathing in her mother’s arms at 21 days old. She was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where medical staff performed CPR for almost an hour. When a faint pulse was found, she was flown by helicopter to Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Doctors found no reason for her to have stopped breathing, and after a month of tests, Camdyn went home with a heart monitor. A few days after going home, her monitor went off with a heart rate over 300 and she was taken again to a hospital, then transferred by helicopter to Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Doctors continued to search for a cause. Camdyn was ultimately diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia, an arrhythmia that creates an extremely rapid heart rate. Because her brain was deprived of oxygen during the first incident, Camdyn has some developmental delays and occasionally uses a walker.



Maddox Smith, 9, Coralville

Oct. 7 vs. Illinois

When Maddox was 5 years old, his parents noticed spots that looked like birthmarks but weren’t present before. They asked their family physician about the spots — called café au lait spots — and were referred to a genetics expert at the hospital. They learned Maddox has neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves, for which there is no treatment or cure. When Maddox was 7, he started experiencing intense headaches. Doctors discovered a large, life-threatening brain tumor, unrelated to neurofibromatosis. The only option to save Maddox’s life was to surgically remove the tumor. Today, Maddox has five titanium plates in his head.



Hayden Wheatley, 2, Hamilton, Ill.

Oct. 21 @ Northwestern

When Hayden was 19 months old, her parents noticed she was having balance issues. A CT scan at a hospital showed she had fluid on her brain. She and her family were transferred to Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where doctors discovered a mass on Hayden’s brainstem. The mass was removed during an eight-hour surgery, but Hayden still wasn’t out of the woods. Following her surgery, Hayden was placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation — or ECMO — life support for two days, during which she also had a significant stroke. Once she was weaned from life support, Hayden’s parents were told the mass was an aggressive form of brain cancer. Since her diagnosis, she’s experienced many complications and months of hospitalization.



Leah McClain, 11, Pittsfield, Ill.

Oct. 28 vs. Minnesota

Leah was 7 years old and living with her family in Knoxville when she had her first life-threatening seizure. Her parents took her to a local emergency room, and she was flown by helicopter to a Des Moines hospital. Two months later, she had a similar seizure and was again taken to Des Moines. By summer of that year, she was experiencing headaches and intestinal issues. A conversation with her local pediatrician led Leah’s parents to Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where they met with a pediatric neurologist, pediatric gastroenterologist and neurosurgeons who performed brain surgery to address the source of the seizures. Biopsies done later showed Leah has cortical dysplasia, a congenital abnormality in the brain’s development.



Logan Manderfield, 13, Waucoma

Nov. 4 vs. Ohio State


Logan was not meeting his developmental milestones as a 1-year-old, and his parents were concerned. Their local pediatrician referred them to Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Abnormalities were found in Logan’s blood work, and his family was referred to a pediatric neuromuscular doctor who diagnosed him with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rapidly progressive genetic disorder that causes muscles to degenerate and become weak. Logan still walks on his own most of the time, requiring a wheelchair only for long trips that involve extensive walking. He’s part of a clinical trial at the hospital that, if successful, could aid in muscle development for those with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.



Cooper Foster, 9, Central City

Nov. 11 @ Wisconsin

Cooper was very sick as a baby. At 1 month old, he was hospitalized for repeated vomiting, issues with weight gain and difficulty with normal bowel movements. Over the course of 10 days at a Cedar Rapids hospital, his condition turned dangerously worse. Transferred to Stead Family Children’s Hospital for specialized care, Cooper was diagnosed with Hirschsprung’s disease, a condition that affects the large intestine and causes difficulty in eliminating waste. He has undergone surgeries to help improve his quality of life.



Laurel Schaul, 11, Springville

Nov. 18 vs. Purdue

Laurel was playing with friends in the basement of her Springville home when an accident left her with intense back pain. Her mother took her to a walk-in clinic, where she was directed to go to the emergency room at a Cedar Rapids hospital. As her mother was helping her into the van, Laurel told her she could feel her legs but could no longer move them. The ER doctors referred Laurel and her parents to Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where surgeons immediately took her to an operating room and removed a large blood clot from her spine. Neurosurgeons gave Laurel a 10 to 15 percent chance of walking again. One week after surgery, however, she defied the odds and took her first steps.



Landon Wilkerson, 7, Montezuma

Nov. 24 @ Nebraska

Landon was born with only one kidney and several other complications that led immediately to kidney failure. Hospitals near his home in Tulsa, Okla., were not able to care for pediatric kidney patients, so his family discussed moving back to Iowa — where his mother was from originally — so Landon could receive care at Stead Family Children’s Hospital. The family moved in 2013, when Landon’s pediatrician told Landon’s parents it was time to look into transplant. His kidney donor turned out to be someone very special: his grandmother. In his young life, Landon has already had more than 20 surgeries.



Hunter Fasse, 10, Shell Rock

Postseason game


During his mother’s 20-week ultrasound at her local doctor’s office, Hunter’s parents learned he would be born with a cleft lip and palate. They were referred to Stead Family Children’s Hospital for further testing, and the cleft lip and palate were confirmed. After Hunter was born, his first surgery, at 5 months old, was to reconstruct his lip. Shortly after his first birthday, he underwent surgery to reconstruct his palate. Hunter continued meeting with the cleft clinic twice a year. In 2013, he underwent surgery and therapy for the reconstruction of his jaw, followed by orthodontic visits a few years later.

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