While several big names have already made their appearances at the Big Event — singer and performer Jamie Lono, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, and soon to be UI President Sally Mason — many of the kids were excited to see a different bunch of people: The Iowa Hawkeye football team.
18 hours into Dance Marathon, the team arrived to the family room, greeted by dozens of children, all eager to get the Hawkeyes to sign their sweatshirts, pieces of paper, and even football helmets.
The players enjoyed getting to meet the kids and talk to them — some of them even played board games with the children.
“I think it’s great, it’s always cool to get around kids and I’m a people person so I love meeting everyone,” offensive lineman Mitchell Keppy said.
Although the Hawkeyes are used to fans, they believe they have a special responsibility to the kids of Dance Marathon.
“To me, it means celebrating a good cause, it’s a great fundraiser,” offensive lineman Nolan Macmillan said. “This makes you realize you’re somebody’s role model, and you have to set a good example for them and do the right thing.”
And many of the Hawkeyes were humbled by their younger fans.
“I’ve always been a huge Iowa fan, so I think if I was in their shoes I would have gone nuts over this,” kicker Brent Wilker said. “It’s kind of humbling to be in this position.”
In addition to being role models for the kids, some of the football players also view the kids as inspiring people.
“The kids that go through a lot of things that are really hard, probably a lot harder than going to college,” linebacker Palmer Foster said. “The fact that they smile all the time, even with everything they’re going through, it’s kind of awesome to see that they’re so happy and if they’re happy, then we should be happy.”
For some of the younger players, they took the whole experience in and tried to inspire the kids.
“I don’t know if we inspire them, it’d be cool If we did,” quarterback Kyle Anderson said. “If not they’re enough inspiration for us but I hope we can be inspiration to them too.”
The kids were equally excited to see the players, and many of them mentioned seeing the Hawkeyes as their favorite part of Dance Marathon thus far.
“It means a lot, because I cheer for them at the games, and I’m a fan,” Will Reinart, who had a sweatshirt covered in signatures, said. “It was really cool to get to interact with them, and talk to them. This is one of my favorite things.”