Parker’s Story: When Hawkeye Fans Wave, Superheroes Wave Back

Story by Derek Pech

Who is in the window?

It is safe to say that the new Hawkeye tradition that started this past weekend has gone viral. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, at the end of the 1st quarter of the game, fans inside Kinnick Stadium turned and waved to children inside the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Hawkeye fans have been in on this for quite some time, but the nation found out about it on Saturday, and it has been universally adored. Even ESPN or “the mother-ship, as Dan Patrick would say, jumped on board by doing a feature on “The Wave” on Sportscenter Sunday evening with Scott Van Pelt.

Spidey is watching ^^^

It goes without saying that I’m a huge fan of the new tradition. I’m not here to talk about the tradition itself, but what it means to the children and their families behind those windows. What Hawkeye fans and visitors to Kinnick Stadium might not know is while they are waving, there are real life super heroes waving back.

Each of those windows represents a story – a story of the children and families behind them. For just a few minutes, they were able to shift their focus from their battle and stare down at the thousands of people smiling and waving at them. If you look closely enough you may even see Spider-Man on the top floor (see picture to the right) – and that room currently belongs to 2-year-old Parker Hopkins.

I want to share the story of Parker Hopkins and his family. It’s a story that deserves to be heard, and I believe it will go a long way in helping people to understand the challenges that the kids and families behind those windows are facing.

#ParkerStrong

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a man named Kiefer Hopkins. Kiefer has a beautiful family of four. He and his wife Jordan have two boys, Maddux (4), and Parker (2). The Hopkins family is from Muscatine Iowa, and as Kiefer says, they are all Hawkeyes – born and raised.

Like many of the families inside the Stead Family Children’s Hospital, the Hopkins family is going through a battle that many of us can not imagine. Parker was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia on August 13, 2016 just a couple months before his 2nd birthday. He conquered his original battle with cancer, and remained cancer free for a year.

Shortly after celebrating Parker being cancer free for a year, the Hopkins family received devastating news that the cancer had returned. Parker has been in the Children’s Hospital for the past several weeks. While chemo was enough to help Parker get through his first battle, this time he would need to undergo a bone marrow transplant. It turns out that his four year old brother Maddux is a 100% match and will be the donor.

The following is a transcript of my conversation with Kiefer:

BCD: First of all, how is Parker doing and how are all of you doing?
Kiefer: We as a family are doing well. Parker is coming off of some high fevers, and when he does we will be able to get rid of his IV pole for awhile. We are currently waiting for count recovery so we can go home and spend time as a family while we prep for a bone Marrow transplant. We do our best to split time between our boys Maddux (4) and Parker (2) as my wife Jordan is a full time nursing student, and I’m currently staying with Parker full time. Jordan is at the hospital a couple nights a week, but Maddux only gets to come up 1-2 times a week for a couple hours. Parker’s original diagnosis wasn’t so hard on Maddux because he was a very young 3 year old, but since Parker’s relapse and Maddux now being 4, he is taking it a little harder understanding he won’t see his family as often. We just recently started talking to Maddux about being Parker’s bone marrow donor as he is a 100% match. We explained it to him as he needed to lend his brother some of his super hero powers so he can get healthy and come home. Maddux was more than excited to help his little (Bigger) brother.

BCD: Do you know when the transplant will be?
Kiefer: We are currently planning for the first week in October. Parker will be getting his transplant about 2 weeks prior to his 3rd birthday.

BCD: Where is your family from?
Kiefer: We are actually from a town called Muscatine, IA just south of Davenport and the Quad Cities.

BCD: Yeah I know Muscatine. Joe Wieskamp!
Kiefer: Yep. Joe will be a stud playing for Iowa soon!

BCD: He sure will! Have you and your family always been Hawkeye fans?
Kiefer: Born and raised!

BCD: Do Parker and Maddux have a favorite player? Have they had a chance to meet any of them while Parker has been at the hospital?

Parker and Josey Jewell

Kiefer: Josey Jewell. We actually met Josey last year around Christmas. The Players brought in toys to the kids and Josey and Parker hit it off. We were able to talk to him against at Dance Marathons big event in Iowa City last year and I couldn’t believe they recognized each other. Parker had given Josey a bracelet around Christmas and Josey was still wearing it at the big event

BCD: Wow that’s pretty cool. Sounds like Josey is a great guy. That’s awesome for Parker. So I can tell by his pictures that Parker is a huge Spider-Man fan. I’m nerdy enough to know that Spider-Man is Peter Parker. Is that why Parker loves him? Is that where you got the name Parker? Or just a coincidence?
Kiefer:Parker indeed was named after Spider-Man. I’ve never seen Parker or Spider-Man in the same room . . . that may or may not be coincidence.
BCD: Ha-ha! So Parker could be Spider-Man? Right here in Iowa City?
Kiefer: Well he’s definitely a super hero.
BCD: Sounds like you have a couple little super heroes. Must be in the genes!
BCD: So did Parker get a kick out of the fans waving at him on Saturday?
Kiefer: Yes, he loved it. He made it long enough to wave to the Hawkeye crowd before passing out shortly after. He had been running high fevers for days.
I actually have video of the game waving to Parker. I went to the first game with some friends as one of them had just joined the military, but I made sure to go and call Parker to show him where I was so he could see me wave to him for the first time. (Kiefer’s video from the stands below).

BCD: So what will his journey be like after the transplant? Will you guys know soon after if it was successful?
Kiefer: After the transplant, Parker will have to wear a thick medical mask because he will have a very poor immune system. There is a list of things he can and can not eat and things he can and can not do. It’s going to be a very tough transition, but we are up to the task. I believe they said we should know within 41 days how successful the transplant was.

BCD: Okay. Thank you for sharing that! What can people do to help?
Kiefer: For help we strongly suggest checking out www.bethematch.org. You could be some child or person’s hero. Take nothing for granted, throw spare change in the coffee cans at gas stations, donate to help families in your neighborhood and support the kiddos effected by this terrible disease, and rally around them like our community has for us. Shout out to the CITY OF MUSCATINE.

BCD: Thank you Kiefer. That’s great! Finally, I want to ask about the U of I Children’s Hospital. It has become well known lately that Kirk and his family have donated another million dollars to the Children’s Hospital. What are your thoughts on the Hospital? Obviously your family has a unique perspective.
Kiefer: Well Parker’s original diagnosis started the worst week of our lives, but the news of his relapse definitely hit us the hardest. The University of Iowa did a great job preparing us and helping us through or difficult time. The nurses and doctors here are second to NONE.

We have a great view, and we love the layout. We have a lot of fond memories from 3JCP (our old unit), but we look forward to making more memories while we are here. The rooms are a lot bigger and help the families who stay for long periods of time do it in a more comfortable manner.
BCD: Got it. Alright Kiefer, is there anything else you’d like to me to share? Anything else you’d like to say?
Kiefer: GO HAWKS BEAT STATE! It’s rivalry week and we look forward to a great game. Iowa state always puts up a good fight.
BCD: Does Parker have anything to say to Cyclone fans?
Parker: They better be ready! The swarm is coming!
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How to Help!

First of all, Kiefer and his family are too humble to ask, but you don’t go through a fight like Parker’s without an incredible amount of medical costs. Please go to Parker’s Go Fund Me page and make a donation if you can. It would mean the world to Parker and his family. You can also follow Parker’s progress on the Parker Strong Facebook page.

Parker’s 6 foot Spider-Man!

Also, as Kiefer said, if you want to be a hero yourself then check out bethematch.org/ and consider joining the bone marrow registry. You never know who may need your help. You could absolutely end up saving someone’s life.

Finally, on the Saturdays to come, whether you are at Kinnick Stadium or watching the game on TV, look for the giant Spider-Man in one of those Children’s Hospital windows. That’s Parker’s room. He’s one of many superheroes up there cheering on the Hawkeyes while fighting their own battle.

Do what you can to help, and think about these kids the next time you wave.

 

Parker with Josey again and joined by Matt Vandeberg and Nate Wieting.

Parker with Spider-Man

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