University of Iowa's 'Kinnick Wave' wins Disney Sports Spirit Award

Honor to be officially bestowed on Dec. 7 on ESPN

People wave to patients in the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital after the first quarter of the Iowa Hawkeyes football game with the Purdue Boilermakers at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. The gesture, known as the Kinnick Wave, has earned the Hawkeyes football program the Disney Sports Spirit Award. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
People wave to patients in the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital after the first quarter of the Iowa Hawkeyes football game with the Purdue Boilermakers at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. The gesture, known as the Kinnick Wave, has earned the Hawkeyes football program the Disney Sports Spirit Award. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Parents whose children have experienced the “Kinnick Wave” from the 12th floor of the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital have said the new tradition is “really something.”

Turns out Disney, a company synonymous with dreams coming true, agrees.

Disney Sports announced it is presenting the Iowa football program with its Disney Sports Spirit Award, which annually goes to football’s most inspirational figure.

Disney has not specified why the Kinnick Wave is being honored this year, but it’s an easy guess.

At the end of the first quarter of every home game this season, those in attendance — and even the players, coaches and referees — turn and wave to the young patients watching from the Stead Family Children’s Hospital, which overlooks Kinnick Stadium.

With the Hawkeyes kicking off their first football season since the university opened its new 14-floor, $360 million children’s hospital — fans via social media months ago began circulating the idea of a coordinated midgame wave to the children watching over their collective shoulder.

The idea spread — largely through a “Hawkeye Heaven” Facebook page — and UI Hospitals and athletics administrators were supportive. Thus, a game announcer had planned to call for fans to wave at the kids after the first quarter of this season’s first home game — and he did.

But fans spontaneously began waving even before the announcement.

“To see so many people participating — this wasn’t like some of the people stood up,” said Leigh Ann Kennedy, whose son Zack Poe was at the hospital that day. “This was the entire stadium, and we could see it all, and it was amazing.”

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Since its debut, the Kinnick Wave has continued to ride the social media wave that launched it — catching the attention of ESPN and the “Today” show, for example, both of which aired features of the fan initiative.

“The Iowa Hawkeyes have the newest tradition in college football, and it’s already one of the best,” the Today Show shared on Facebook earlier this year.

The Disney Sports Spirit Award will be officially presented to Iowa’s football program on The Home Depot College Football Awards show on Dec. 7 on ESPN.

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