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Top stories of the 2010s: 'The Wave' quickly wins hearts across the nation

Newest tradition in college football 'already one of the best'

Iowa Hawkeye fans wave Sept. 16, 2017, to children being treated at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospi
Iowa Hawkeye fans wave Sept. 16, 2017, to children being treated at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City. The idea for The Wave at the end of the first quarter of games at Kinnick Stadium started on social media in 2017, the same year the Children’s Hospital opened. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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The eve of a new decade presents a perfect time to reflect on the past 10 years, to look at the changes in our lives and in our state and nation. For Iowa, The Gazette chose 10 storylines of the decade that have changed or will change the state’s trajectory. This is one of those stories. See the full list and read them here.

An idea that started on social media became a national phenomenon and the feel-good story of the decade.

“The Wave” involves the 50,000 to 70,000 people in Kinnick Stadium on a home football Saturday, standing at the end of the first quarter and waving up to the sick kids and their families looking down on the field from the nearby University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

During night games, people wave lights — usually the ones on their cellphones — to create thousands of points of light and get-well wishes.

“I’ve got to tell you, it was really something,” parent Leigh Ann Kennedy said in September 2017 when her 8-year-old son was one of those children waving back.

The 14-story, $392 million Children’s Hospital opened the same year The Wave started, after numerous delays and cost overruns.

Its top story has large windows overlooking the football field, where patients and their families can watch and take a break from the off-field challenges they face.

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The Wave is always shown during Iowa’s televised games and has brought tons of media attention to the university.

“The Iowa Hawkeyes have the newest tradition in college football, and it’s already one of the best,” the “Today” show enthused on Facebook.

Hawkeye fans even took The Wave to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, where they stood at the end of the first quarter Friday to wave to the video board to those kids back home.

And then Carson King, 24, of Altoona, held up a hand-printed sign during the Iowa-Iowa State game this year, seeking beer money in his Venmo account — and ended up raising $3 million for the Children’s Hospital.

But that’s another story.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.