'Now we can see them and love the kids': Gary Dolphin's take on - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

'Now we can see them and love the kids': Gary Dolphin's take on the greatest tradition in college football

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Through screams of excitement and some heartbreak, Dolphin has been 'The Voice of the Hawkeyes' for 21 seasons now.

He says, "When you grow up in this state and you are a kid who aspires to be a broadcaster, you want to be the next 'Voice of the Hawkeyes'. I've been the "next voice" for more than 20 years now."

This current season has had its ups and downs, but it's been one of Dolphin's favorites from beyond the gridiron.

"We want to win every football game, we are all Hawk fans, but it is a football game. There are some real life lessons to be learned every year," he says.

This season's lesson is one that has the entire nation listening, all from a simple wave. A new tradition as the entire stadium turns to wave to children at the new University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital.

Dolphin says, "We've always loved the University of Iowa Children's Hospital, but now we can see it and love the kids. You can see those noses pressed up against the window on Saturday night or Saturday afternoon, and it's very emotional but very heartwarming."

On the other side, it's enough to change someone's week.

Caitlin Reuter of Shellsburg has been in the hospital with her youngest son Deacon, ever since he was born 8 months ago.

She says, "It's been 265 days, not that we are counting or anything."

Deacon was born with heart defects and one lung. At just 8 months old, he's already had 3 open heart surgeries.  He has spent every single day of his young life inside these hospital walls..

"You sure wish it was you...I would take his place in a heartbeat; it's really tough to see," Reuter says.

Caitlin and her husband also have three other young boys to take care of.

She says, "It's been really hard for his three big brothers too with all the adjusting and driving back and forth every day."

Children and their families go through so much at the hospital on a daily basis. On game day, that all changes even for just a moment as they come up to the 12th floor look out and see thousands of people turning away from the field and waving up to them.

"It's such a simple gesture and yet the meaning behind it is so profound. It makes you feel like you are a part of something and they are acknowledging you and the kids. Everyone struggles here so that act, it means so much," Reuter says. 

The hospital staff turns their so called "press box" area into a tailgate party. Their television even hooks up to Kinnick's jumbo-tron, giving children and their families their own mini Kinnick Stadium, but more importantly a sense of normalcy, a happy distraction.

Reuter says, "Spending the first 8 months of his life in a bed in the PICU having it be quiet with not as much going on, then going to the 12th floor and seeing the hustle and bustle and the excitement from the kiddos up there....you could tell on Deacon's face that he was having a good time."

And Dolphin's got the best seat in the house.

He says, "They are waving back with their own signs now, little banners taped up to their windows on game day. We care about them, we love them, we are looking at them, waving at them every weekend, and now they are returning the message with just some incredible messages."

It's not only the messages from the children, but the message behind the Iowa Wave making this the greatest tradition in college football.

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