Fans at Kinnick wave to the children and their families at the UI Stead Family Children's Hospital in Iowa City Saturday, Sep. 23, 2017. (Paxton Corey/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa football program awarded Disney Sports Spirit Award

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The Iowa football program has been selected by Walt Disney World to receive the 2017 Disney Sports Spirit Award for starting the “Kinnick Wave.”

It is the first time the Hawkeye program has been given the honor, which is given annually to college football’s most inspirational player, coach, team, or figure. Head coach Kirk Ferentz will be handed the award by Disney Sports Vice President Faron Kelley at the Home Depot College Football Awards on ESPN Dec. 7.

“The impact these fans are having on the lives of those young patients probably can’t be fully measured,” Kelley said in a release. “Waving at them is seemingly a simple gesture, but the effect it’s having on those kids should be an inspiration to all of us, and that’s why we so enthusiastically chose the Iowa football program for this coveted award.‘’

RELATED: Watching the Hawks play from the 12th floor of the UI Children’s Hospital

The Kinnick Wave, which started as an idea in a Facebook post, occurred for the first time during Iowa’s first game of the season, against Wyoming. Nearly 70,000 fans turned at the end of the first quarter to wave to the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, which overlooks Kinnick.

As the season has gone on, others have started to join in the wave, including opposing players and coaches, referees, members of the media, as well as those in the Iowa football program.

“First and foremost, we are excited to have been selected the 2017 winner of the Disney Sports Spirit Award,” Ferentz said in a release. “I don’t believe anyone would have imagined the wave — the Kinnick Wave — would have become such a universal show of support. It’s a simple way for 70,000 people to recognize the kids, the parents, and hospital staff who are the real champions, fighting every day to overcome significant medical challenges. I’m proud that a kind gesture has had a profoundly positive impact on so many people in our state and the nation. We are honored and proud to be part of the Kinnick Wave.”

— Courtney Baumann

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