Will Kohn, first patient at building of Iowa Children's Hospital that oversees Kinnick Stadium, dies at 7

Iowa fans wave to children in the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in September 2017. (AP)

One of the best things to come from the 2017 college football season was a new tradition at Iowa.

A new building was added to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital right next to Kinnick Stadium. The new building’s proximity to the stadium prompted an idea: Iowa fans would wave to the children in the hospital at the end of the first quarter.

One of those children was Will Kohn, the first patient admitted to the new building in January 2017. Will died Saturday at age 7, according to the Des Moines Register.

He loved the moment when fans would wave to the hospital, as detailed in a wonderful feature by USA Today’s George Schroeder:

The moment nears. Will Kohn’s father leans over and asks: “Are you ready?” The boy nods, his gaze fixed on the scene 12 stories below. And then his eyes grow very wide. Will is 6. This is his 295th day at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital – his 44th with a new heart. He’d been up here once before to see the fans at Kinnick Stadium wave in unison to him and the other young patients watching from the windows of the new hospital wing. This time, Will’s wave back to the crowd is bigger, more confident.

It’s a night game, so many in the crowd fire the flashes on their phone cameras: Tens of thousands points of light, aimed at the children who can’t be at the stadium. Will hasn’t spoken in months, since he underwent a tracheotomy to help him breathe. He gets his parents’ attention by clicking his tongue, then communicates by mouthing sentences. Sometimes, a dad only needs to see his son’s eyes.

“They were huge when he saw all the lights from the cameras,” says Chris Kohn, his father. “This was his first night wave. I think it even caught him off guard.”

It’s that way for a lot of us, isn’t it? Since the Iowa wave began in September, a simple gesture has grown to mean so much.

Will was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a heart abnormality. He underwent several surgeries and was put on the heart transplant list when he was 3. A match was found in September, allowing Will to return home in December.

However, Will was diagnosed with large B-cell lymphoma in early January and died a few weeks later.

“Will fought one hell of a fight for seven years but he left us peacefully early this afternoon,” a Jan. 27 update on the Team Will Facebook page reads. “He can now be the boy we always dreamed him to be able to be. He can run around, shoot hoops and just be a normal 7 year old boy.”

Will and the other children at the hospital have had an impact on the Iowa football team — and its opponents. Throughout the season, the Hawkeyes, along with opposing players and coaches, participated in the wave.

In recent days, two Iowa players, Miles Taylor and Josh Jackson, held auctions on Twitter to raise money for the Children’s Hospital.

Both Taylor and Jackson have completed their Iowa careers with Taylor graduating and Jackson declaring for the NFL draft, so there are no NCAA rules being broken here.

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