Kid Captain for UNI game considered Iowa football’s ‘good-luck charm’

The Kid Captain for the UNI game has a rare genetic mutation with only about 30 similar cases known worldwide.


Katina Zentz

Kid Captain Quinn Stumpf attends Kids’ Day at Kinnick Stadium on Aug. 11, 2018.

Marissa Payne, Managing Editor

In her six years of life, Quinn Stumpf has beat the odds to live and taught others a great deal.

Quinn, 6, from Riverside, Iowa, is the Kid Captain for Saturday’s Hawkeye football game against the Northern Iowa Panthers.

The Kid Captain program is a partnership between the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital and the Hawkeyes to honor current or former Children’s Hospital patients, and it is now in its 10th year.

Quinn was diagnosed with severe hearing loss in both ears shortly after birth. Eventually, she began exhibiting other health issues, such as dystonia —  a movement disorder that causes involuntary muscle contraction — and gastrointestinal issues that led to malnutrition.

In 2015, genetic testing revealed Quinn has a gene mutation known as SPATA5 that results in conditions including epilepsy, hearing loss, dystonia, and opisthotonos — a condition which causes muscle spasms that result in painful backward arching of the head, neck, and spine.

There are about 30 cases known in the world to be similar to Quinn’s.

“She’s so rare and has so many different health issues that if her story could reach one family that is going through something like this and doesn’t know what to do, then that is enough,” Quinn’s mother, April Stumpf, said. “That is why we put in her name [for Kid Captain].”

Stumpf said Quinn wasn’t expected to live past age 2, but medical professionals now anticipate she will live to be around 10.

Her daughter “has already surpassed so many odds,” Stumpf said, and she continues to amaze those around her.

Quinn has an older brother and younger sister who, Stumpf said, have learned to be empathetic because of what they’ve seen Quinn experience.

“She is loved by so many. She is kind of my teacher,” Stumpf said. “I feel like her purpose in life and her life is to be a teacher and bring inspiration to others and help others.”

Jane Brokel, Quinn’s day nurse, said Quinn deserves to be a Kid Captain given the trials and tribulations she has experienced.

“You just don’t give up,” Brokel said about caring for Quinn. “She continues to amaze me as a nurse because the pain … that she has experienced throughout her life was nothing that I’ve seen in my nursing career of 42 years.”

Brokel shares Stumpf’s opinion that Quinn is a teacher to those who know her.

“Quinn’s going to teach us about this condition that she has, and we’re going to work with her,” Brokel said.

The family members take their cues on how to respond to Quinn’s disorder from Quinn herself, grandmother Mary Jane Stumpf said.

“She’s come a long way, and we’re really proud of her,” she said. “… We see how strong she is, so we take the lead from her, and we’re strong, too.”

The Stumpfs consider Quinn to be the Hawkeyes’ good-luck charm, April Stumpf said. Every Saturday, Quinn dons Hawkeye gear and holds onto a lucky Iowa football during the games.

When Quinn’s time comes to walk onto the field of Kinnick on Saturday, April Stumpf said, she thinks Quinn will sense the energy the crowd generates all in support of her.

“I kind of call this her graduation because chances are she may not have a graduation. What better graduation than to have it in front of 70,000 people?” she said. “To see her be honored for all that she’s gone through, and to be able to tell her story, and help other families, and highlight the great things that the UI has done for her, it’s amazing.”