A closer look at ‘The Wave’ in Iowa: One of college football’s newest, and most meaningful, traditions (video)

November 5, 2017 GMT

A closer look at ‘The Wave’ in Iowa: One of college football’s newest, and most meaningful, traditions (video)

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- As the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital was being built in the shadows of Kinnick Stadium, the Press Box was very much a part of the plan.

High atop the 12-story building was to be a room overlooking the football field, in which patients and their families could escape from the painful and emotional toll of the exam rooms below.

The Press Box was to feature food, activities, games and, oh yeah, a full view of the Hawkeyes’ football field — the best seat outside of the house.

While the space came to fruition in 2016, what has come of the space was as unexpected as any admittance into the hospital itself.

When 2-year-old Reid Gleeson was admitted to the hospital this past August, the Press Box was less than a year old.

Gleeson, brought in by his parents Bill and Megan, was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma, a tumor that developed in the posterior part of his brain requiring major neurosurgery to remove the mass.


Though the surgery was successful, other cancerous spots were found near Gleeson’s spine, forcing the boy and his family to spend weeks away from their home in Davenport at the hospital.

The Gleesons came to the hospital as big Hawkeyes fans and when the invitation to the Press Box arrived, they were eager to accept.

Little did they know they’d be a few of the first people to experience college football’s newest, and perhaps most touching, tradition.

The Wave, as it has since been dubbed, was originally an idea brought about on an Iowa football Facebook page.

Fans were aware of the new building, as well as the plans for the Press Box, and thought it would be nice to offer their support to the young patients.

At the end of the first quarter, the Hawkeye faithful would acknowledge the children with a wave toward the top floor.

On Sept. 2, the Hawkeyes hosted the Wyoming Cowboys for the first game of the 2017 season and the first “Wave” took place.

In the hours following, media outlets from around the country saw the touching gesture and ran with it. Soon there were stories around the country on websites, social media platforms, TV stations and the like.

The Wave garnered much nationwide attention, but so too did the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, much to the delight of the Gleeson family.

“We couldn’t believe all the attention that it has brought to the hospital. It’s just awesome,” Megan said. “This long process, (it) puts a little fun in it.”

The Wave continues to gain steam and national attention.

On Saturday, as Ohio State traveled to Iowa City to play the Hawkeyes, so too did “Inside Edition,” which will be airing a story on the gesture in the near future.


Also on hand was former Hawkeyes defensive back and current Los Angeles Chargers corner Desmond King, who saw The Wave from afar but wanted to experience it first-hand.

“It’s a great idea to do it for kids with illness,” King said. “They’re probably not able to be out there in the stands, so you want to give them the opportunity to experience the game.”

While it’s unfortunately true that children such as Reid Gleeson don’t have the ability to spend much time out of the hospital due to a difficult recovery plan, not every patient is in for an extended stay.

Take 10-year-old Sam Burke, for instance.

Burke was three days removed from surgery to correct a Chiari Malformation in his brain as he entered the Press Box for the first time Saturday.

While the surgery was intense — any neurosurgery is — according to his father Steve, Sam was set to be discharged within a week.

The Burkes, much like the Gleesons, came to the Children’s Hospital as “die-hard” Hawkeyes fans and knew about The Wave.

Though they weren’t excited to be in the hospital, they cherished the opportunity to be part of such a special tradition.

“It’s an amazing experience,” Steve said. “I can tell you that.”

Already looking toward Sam’s discharge from the hospital, the Burkes — including Sam and his three siblings — are also planning to experience both sides of the tradition.

“I think what we’ll do next year is take all the kids to a game and see it from the other vantage point,” Burke said.

Sam Burke wouldn’t be the first patient to experience The Wave from the hospital and the stadium, according to Molly Rossiter, a communications specialist for the Iowa Children’s Hospital.

“We did just have one last week, a pediatric cancer survivor who had been up here for all of the first part of football season,” Rossiter said. “He was cleared and was able to go home and last week, he waved back to the kids from the stands.

“It was amazing.”

Though there may only be one such patient thus far, the hope is every patient is afforded the same opportunity to wave from the room above as well as the stands below.

As the seconds remaining in the first quarter of Saturday’s game dwindled, the excitement surrounding the many black-and-gold-clad patients and families at the top of the hospital grew with excitement.

They were moments from The Wave and they couldn’t wait.

As the clock struck zero, immediately, nearly every hand in the room raised, as did pom-poms and large cut-out cardboard gloves.

Down below, both the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes turned their attention toward the top of the building.

Some players offered a nice, quick wave before returning to the huddle. Others jumped up and down, making sure to let the patients know they were sending their support.

Even Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, with hundreds of plays, situations and thoughts running through his mind, took an extended moment to turn in full and take part.

“How cool is that?” Steve asked Sam. “They’re waving at you bud.

“You’re their hero.”

After the crowd roared and the children smiled, the week’s wave was over.

Hopefully, however, the tradition will continue for years to come.