Kinnick Stadium, home of the Iowa Hawkeyes, met a bright and smiley young lady at the football game Saturday, September 22! Brandi Yates, age 14, of Reinbeck, Iowa, was Kid Captain for the Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Central Michigan game. She attends Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School, and is a ninth grader. Brandi suffered from acute renal failure at age seven. Eight months later, she received a kidney transplant from her aunt Janet. Everything was wonderful until two years later, when Brandi's kidney began to shut down. After losing the transplanted kidney, Brandi found out that she has a rare genetic disease called Atypical HUS (Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome), with only 100 known cases of it in the world. On October 7th, 2010, Brandi received a kidney transplant from an anonymous donor. With the two year anniversary of her transplant coming up, everything is running smoothly. Brandi and her mother, Kathy Yates, still travel to University of Iowa Children's Hospital every 14 days for Soliris treatments that fight off her disease from attacking the kidneys.
At one of her treatments, Brandi's social worker came up to Kathy and told her about Kid Captain, and suggested that Brandi should be submitted. Also, a close friend of Brandi's from dialysis, Korri Hoeger, was a Kid Captain last season, and she encouraged Brandi to do it too! Kathy decided it was worth a shot! She wrote a letter of recommendation about Brandi, narrating her story and describing their relationship with U of I Children's Hospital. Then, the administrative board read all the candidate letters, and then picked whatever story really hits their hearts. Brandi and 12 other Kid Captains were chosen from 403 submissions.
When Brandi found out that she'd be Kid Captain, she described her reaction as "speechless," that she was "enthusiastic and cheerful," and that she felt "like everything was jumping up and down inside!" Brandi says that she was most looking forward to going onto the field and hearing everyone cheer for her.
The day of being Kid Captain consists of many exhilarating things! The Kid Captain, along with four other guests get all-access passes to go down to the tunnel and wait for all the players. Then, they come out of the locker rooms and get to meet them. Brian Ferentz, offensive coach, along with Kirk Ferentz, head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes, stop by to have a chat personally with you. Following, the crew heads down the tunnel and is bombarded by all the screaming fans, and an unending row of students to give high-fives to. Along the side lines, you get to meet and take pictures with the cheerleaders, band members, and other important Iowa Hawkeyes organizers. Finally, the moment the Kid Captain has been waiting for arrives the time to walk onto the field, face the press box, and show your biggest smile, which is no problem for Brandi to do!
"At first I was really excited," she began, "but then, butterflies started to grow in my stomach!" She took on the field, along with Honorary Captain, Chiz Ejiasi. "I started to feel shaky and nervous," as she began to trot towards the 50 yard line. "But then, when I got to the middle of the field and saw everybody cheering for me, I was really excited and happy!" Brandi sported a huge grin, as she waved to all her 70,000 adoring fans!
What was the best part about being the Kid Captain? Brandi says that the best part for her was "standing along the sidelines next to all the huge football players during the National Anthem." She loved it when they bent down towards her and asked her all kinds of question. "It made me feel really special and important!" When asked if she'd be Kid Captain again for the Iowa Hawkeyes, she lets out a loud, smirk laugh and shouts, "HECK, YEAH!"