A wave becomes a powerful surge: The three families behind the Iowa Wave Shirts

Hawkeye Headquarters

The Iowa Wave is more than just a message of support.

It’s enriching the programs at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

These three families are leading a community.

Brooke Mickelson said, “We might be the locomotive behind it, but there’s no question we couldn’t do it without everyone’s support.”

That support is all to show a lot of love to one place.

Meighan Phillips said, “The kids that are here at Stead, they’ve captured our hearts and the hearts of this community.”

Brooke and John Mickelson, Meighan and Cy Phillips and Lori and Jason Willis are the three families.
John Mickelson and Cy Phillips are former Hawkeye football players, along with many other connections to the University of Iowa for the families.

Their effort is aiding the Iowa Hawkeye Wave have an even more lasting impact after seeing a stadium of 70,000 turned and waved.

Lori Willis said, “She [Meighan] said you’re not going to believe this but I’ve Googled it and there’s no Wave shirts available and this was right when the Wave was taking off. She said to me, I hated the idea that someone could take what’s organically and beautifully happening at the stadium and profit off of it. Then I said to her, we should do it and then give that money back to the kids.”

The next day they started scribbling designed and sent it off to be screened on shirts, not knowing what to expect.

Jason Willis said, “When they came up with the idea, we’re thinking oh great we’re going to have 500 shirts and we’ll be calling friends and buddies saying hey, will you please buy these for us.”

Lori Willis added, “These shirts we have to sell.”

However, the Iowa Wave Shirts took off instantly.

Jason Willis said, “And she [Lori] calls me and goes we sold 2,000 and I said that’s awesome and she goes how are we going to mail them.”

Two years later, a waiting room in the pediatric specialty clinic carries the name, 63,000 pieces of apparel sold and a tangible difference. 

Meighan Phillips said, “We officially raised just under $1 million. We’re already on our way to surpass that just the activity we’ve seen in season three.”

On this night, Aug. 27, they’re presenting a check for half a million dollars raised past year benefiting programs at the Children’s Hospital.

Lori Willis said, “Child life department comes, they just make the hospital and all those experiences not scary, and that they lessen the trauma that the child will experience.”

“We work really closely with the University and Stead Family Children’s Hospital to determine what their needs are. They constantly change. Three years ago when we started, I think it was one thing and now that might have been fulfilled by another generous donor and this year, there’s something different,” said Brooke Mickelson.

But for two of these families, it’s more than being on the outside waving in.

Meighan Phillips said, “Life stops right at those four walls when your little one is in here.”

For Meighan and Cy Phillips…

Meighan Phillips said, “Our daughter Genevieve, she’s six today but she was treated here when she was three and Stead saved her life.”

And Brooke and John Mickelson…

Brooke Mickelson said, “Hunter, his life was saved at Stead. We’re forever grateful for the doctors and care staff here. They’re part of our family now.”

Giving back to Stead is a small way to repay this debt.

“When it became an opportunity to get involved in the Wave and make his [Hunter’s] condition more know and make our cause more known, and raise money for the children here,” said Brooke Mickelson.

During this check presentation, it was important for the three families to have their kids there to see what the Hawkeye community is accomplishing.

Brooke Mickelson said, “When the boys come to football games and they wave up to kids, they know the work that we’re doing and they see the children that are benefiting.”

And for the three families, these shirts are another way to show a community that cares.

Jason Willis said, “When you put that shirt on, one it looks good but two, you really know that there’s a lot of people behind you and you’re not alone.”

Knowing too, this is also all for the kids.

“Nobody profits off of this. It’s donated all the way through,” said Jason Willis. “The only people that are profiting off of it and gaining are the children in the hospital.”

The Iowa Wave Shirt have new designs for the 2019 season.

They can be found online and through participating retailers.

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