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Football fans in Iowa find a way to bring joy to young patients at a nearby hospital

For some families at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the world outside. The Kohn family has spent more than 300 days in the children’s ward, while their young son waits for a heart transplant. But Hawkeyes football fans have found a way to show they care through a simple, yet powerful, gesture.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And finally, tonight, we share a story that caught our eye, the power of a simple wave. It's a story originally brought to us by The Des Moines Register, and Nsikan Akpan explains.

  • Meghan Kohn:

    Are you comfy?

    Do you think there's going to be a lot of people at the game, that we can wave at down there.

  • Nsikan Akpan:

    Six-year-old William Kohn was born with a severely underdeveloped heart. At six-days-old, he had his first operation. After months in and out of surgery, he landed at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital, waiting for a heart transplant.

  • Meghan Kohn:

    I think when you're in here for a long time I think they realize how like — sorry — removed you are from just the outside world.

  • Nsikan Akpan:

    William received a donor heart, but there have been complications. His kidneys failed and he hasn't spoken in months, since he underwent a tracheotomy to help him breathe. In total, William and his mom have spent more than 300 days in the hospital.

    In May, a fan suggested on a Hawkeye's Facebook page that everyone take a minute during games to wave at the new wing of the hospital, which overlooks the stadium.

  • Kristen Brown:

    The fact it's just a simple gesture to wave to somebody to acknowledge that they're there, that they have feelings and that just by doing something as simple as waving or saying, hey, we see you, we know you're there we know you guys are going through a hard time but we support you.

  • Nsikan Akpan:

    Now, 68,000 rise and wave at William and other patients gathered on the hospital's 12th floor between the first and second quarters of each game.

  • Man:

    You watch it on TV and you're like, yes, that's pretty cool. That's pretty cool, and then you go up there, and you watch your child want to stay just for that. I mean, you're not only watching your kid, you kind of look around and seeing the other kids doing it. I mean, things stop up there.

  • Woman:

    Just the smallest gesture or being able to be a part of something that's happening outside the walls means a lot to them because it gives them a feeling that they're a little bit normal like the other kids that are going to game.

  • Nsikan Akpan:

    This fall, Iowa football fans let William and other kids know they're not alone.

    I'm Nsikan Akpan for the PBS NewsHour.

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