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The Iowa Wave and Three Hours of Normal

In many respects, Iowa is very similar to southwestern Ontario. The state was built around food production and is dominated by family farms with thousands of small supporting communities.

Along with harvesting corn and soybeans, the fall season is centred around football. The state has two large universities, the University of Iowa which resembles Western in London and Iowa State which offers programs in agriculture and other sciences similar to the University of Guelph. Both schools  play football in major conferences.

On the campus of the University of Iowa beside Kinnick Stadium, is the recently completed Stead Family Children’s Hospital, an institution very similar to the Children’s Hospital of London. The Iowa facility provides specialized services and care for not only state residents but patients from across the United States and the world.

In 2017, fans and players at football games started a tradition of turning away from the field at the end of the first quarter and waving at kids watching from the “press box” on the hospital’s top floor. From this location there is a near perfect view of Kinnick’s football field and patients of the hospital and their families can, for three hours, forget their medical challenges and become part of a normal  Saturday in rural America.

A television broadcast usually leaves the stadium and switches to commercials between quarters. At Iowa State, the cameras stay on the field to provide the viewing audience with a simple but highly emotional display of respect between a university community and the families of children dealing with exceptional challenges.

American sports network ESPN runs College Football Game Day every Saturday morning during the fall. Veteran broadcaster Tom Rinaldi compiled a segment on the Iowa Wave and noted that football games are about anticipation and celebration, not radiation. A mother of one of the kids claimed the wave is a wave of hope and that you’re not alone in the fight against life-threatening medical conditions.

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz appropriately summarized the wave when he said the heroes are not on the field. In the end it’s just rural America supporting their neighbours, something Waterloo Region also does exceptionally well.

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