Without football, Kid Captains will have to wait to take on Kinnick with the team

Without a football season, the 2020 Kid Captain season has been postponed for health and safety reasons.


Ryan Adams

Offensive Linemen Levi and Landon Paulsen talk to Kid Captain Enzo Thongsoum in the Hawkeye football locker room at Kids Day at Kinnick on Saturday, August 10, 2019. Kids Day at Kinnick is an annual event for families to experience Iowa’s football stadium, while watching preseason practice and honoring this year’s Kid Captains.

Rylee Wilson, News Editor

The Iowa Hawkeyes won’t be taking to the field in Kinnick Stadium in 2020, and neither will the team’s youngest leaders – its Kid Captains. 

The 2020 Kid Captain season will be postponed until 2021. In a news release, Pamela Johnson-Carlson, chief administrative officer of the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital said administrators considered modifying the program to accommodate for health and safety precautions, but ultimately decided to postpone. 

The Big Ten announced on Aug. 11 that all fall sports would be postponed, with the possibility that teams may play in the spring of 2021. 

“In the end, we realized the experience would be vastly different this year, and this decision from the Big Ten really validates the direction we were inevitably going,” Johnson-Carlson said. “It will be better to wait until we can offer the kind of experience our Kid Captains and their families have come to expect.”

The Kid Captain program, established in 2009, gives patients at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital a behind-the-sidelines look at Hawkeye football, and gives them a chance to be recognized in front of thousands of cheering fans.

Robin Keller, the mother of 2019 kid captain Charlotte Keller, said her daughter counted down the days for months before every Kid Captain event she got to participate in.

“I feel terrible for the families that can’t participate this year, but I want them to stay positive and know that the team and the program are all there and supporting and loving,” she said. “Hopefully they’ll get a chance to carry forward next year.” 

Lucy Roth, 11, of Iowa City, participated in the Kid Captain program last fall, and has fond memories of her experience.  

“I felt like my kid captain experience was really fun and I felt like I didn’t know that would or could happen to me – that was such a surprise and an honor being a Kid Captain,” she said. “Meeting all the players really meant a lot to me. I still have my Jersey and everything else and I have it on display.” 

Lucy said she has been feeling a little “stir crazy” without school and not being able to see friends because of social distancing, though she is hopeful her graduation from elementary school will still be able to take place at the end of the year. 

For families with children receiving treatment at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, additional restrictions around COVID-19 can present difficulties. 

Lucy’s mother, Heather Roth, said restrictions limiting visitors to one-per-patient made the recent MRI Lucy received tough.

“It was the first time in nine years her dad wasn’t able to come with her – and that was extremely upsetting for her,” Roth said. “Of course we’re thankful for all of the safety procedures the hospital has in place, but it is really hard for the kids not to be able to have both parents with them.” 

Keller said the four-hour drives from Nebraska to Iowa City were scary during the beginning of the pandemic – but Charlotte has been most disappointed by not being able to continue giving donations to the hospital due to the pandemic. 

Keller said Charlotte collects toys, trinkets, jewelry, and even puts together toiletry kits for parents to give to the hospital, but her most recent collection of over 200 items had to be turned away for safety reasons. 

“Because of the pandemic they were not able to accept them and we had to bring them back home,” she said. “Honestly that’s probably the most severe instance in all of this for her, other than not being able to be with her friends.”