The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Nonprofit gives UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital patients game-day-ready hospital gowns

UI alumni worked to donate Hawkeye hospital gowns to children through their nonprofit for the first football game of the season.
Emily Nyberg
Laura Thomson and Holly Hancock pose for a portrait outside of the Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. The two are part of a nonprofit called Holly’s Heart, founded by Hancock. Holly’s Heart works to make unique hospital gowns for children staying in the Stead Family Children’s Hospital. (Emily Nyberg/The Daily Iowan)

Children at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital sported an alternative to hospital gowns during the first Hawkeye game of the season. 

Holly’s Heart, a nonprofit organization, donated Hawkeye-themed hospital gowns to the children for the Sept. 2 Iowa vs. Utah State game and will provide gowns for each game of the season. The nonprofit’s founder, Holly Hancock, came up with the idea for Holly’s Heart after having spent most of her life in the hospital.

Hancock was born with a congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, where the left side of the heart doesn’t develop correctly. She had two open heart surgeries when she was 9 and 10 years old, respectively. 

With her condition, Hancock has a single ventricle, which significantly decreases her ability to breathe normally. Kids with single ventricles are often classified as “blue babies,” Hancock said. Her lips and nails are often purple.

“I missed hanging out with my friends. I wasn’t allowed to play sports growing up. I never got to join the pep squad. It was really hard,” Hancock said.

The aspect of the hospital she hated the most, however, was the hospital gowns. 

“I just wanted to be ‘normal,’ and for whatever reason, the hospital gown just really took a toll on me mentally,” Hancock said.

Laura Thomson, a board member and volunteer at Holly’s Heart and UI alumna, noted how itchy and uncomfortable the gowns are. 

“The gowns lack privacy, and anyone who has ever worn one can relate to this feeling,” Thomson said. 

Thus, the idea for Holly’s Heart was born.

The nonprofit’s primary goal was to create comfortable hospital gowns for kids to wear nationwide. They are made from 100 percent cotton with snaps, allowing for easy access to ports, IVs, and feeding tubes, among other medical necessities.

Thomson later shared the tradition of the Hawkeye Wave with Hancock and her team. 

“The team, including myself, sadly, had never heard of it before but then of course, when we were watching the videos, there wasn’t a dry eye in the bunch,” Hancock said.

The team started talking and working with their manufacturer to develop Hawkeye-inspired gowns and communicated with Child Life, a program at the children’s hospital. 

Holly’s Heart will create and donate 75 gowns for each of the seven home games this season.

“They are going to feel all properly outfitted and decked out in the right colors,”  Thomson said.

At the game this past weekend, hospital volunteers and Child Life specialists distributed the gowns to the patients.

“It was so special walking through the hospital, seeing them wearing gowns from Holly’s Heart, “ Hancock said.

Holly’s Heart is currently raising funds to have enough garments for the entire season. 

The products range in size from gowns for newborns to teenagers and early adults. Their most common themes for young children are superheroes and princesses. As they go up in size, patients are given solid navy blue gowns.

Holly’s Heart is a relatively new organization and is made up solely of volunteers in Chicago, Nashville, and Texas.

The organization’s primary goal is to raise money to donate hospital gowns to various children’s hospitals throughout the U.S.

“I just want kids and adults to have a more comfortable and empowering hospital stay,” Hancock said.

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About the Contributors
Shreya Reddy
Shreya Reddy, News Reporter
Shreya Reddy is a freshman at the University of Iowa. Coming from a small town in Kansas, Shreya is double majoring in English and Political Science on the Pre-Law track. Before coming to the Daily Iowan, she has written for her neighborhood magazine and her schools literary magazine as well as writing an investigative journalism piece.
Emily Nyberg
Emily Nyberg, Visual Editor
Emily Nyberg is a second-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic arts. Prior to her role as a Visual Editor, Emily was a Photojournalist, and a News Reporter covering higher education.