IOWA CITY — Before summer work begins, Iowa football players get a chance to have a little fun with the game.
The Hawkeyes help out at the Iowa Ladies Football Academy, assisting in drills that are normally a part of their workout routine with ladies who participate in the fundraiser for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
“It’s always a great day, a lot of fun,’’ Iowa cornerback Desmond King said. “The ladies get a chance to see what it’s like to be a Hawkeye and we get a chance to have a little fun on the field. It’s good all the way around, and it’s for a great cause.’’
Over the past six years, the Iowa Ladies Football Academy has raised $1.5 million for the hospital that sits across the street from Kinnick Stadium.
Mary Ferentz, the wife of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, is part of a committee of six that organizes the event and works with football staff members to create an unique experience for participants.
“The players at Iowa have historically been generous with their time in visiting children at the hospital, that goes way back, and this seemed like a great natural extension of that,’’ she said.
“Women enjoy football and giving them the chance to meet the players and coaches and get to know them a bit, it’s been a lot of fun for everybody.’’
The first $1 million raised by the day-long academy helped fund construction of a new facility that opened earlier this year, and organizers are now working toward a goal of $1 million to fund pediatric research taking place at the children's hospital.
“The dollars we are raising now are helping create the miracles that take place at the children’s hospital every day,’’ said Ferentz, who has chaired the Children’s Hospital Council for the past 11 years. “It’s a cutting-edge facility and to be able to help raise research dollars that are so important is something I’m glad to be able to help out with.’’
The seventh annual Iowa Ladies Football Academy is scheduled for June 10 and will be limited to 400 participants.
There is a $50 registration fee and participants, who must be at least 18 years old, are required to raise at least additional $500 donation for the UI Children's Hospital, although many participants raise more.
Many participants have taken part in more than one event multiple times — Ferentz estimates that number at around 30 percent — including a few who first experienced it after receiving entries as a Mother’s Day gift.
Registration information and camp details can be found online at IowaLadiesFootballAcademy.com.
“We’ve had people into their 80s participate and the great thing is, you don’t have to be in terrific shape to do this. We’d all like to be, but that’s not reality,’’ Ferentz said. “Come out, have some fun and learn what it’s like to be a Hawkeye. That’s what this is all about.’’
With the start of a construction project that will eventually replace north end zone seating at Kinnick Stadium, including work under the playing surface and the replacement of the field this summer, the Ladies Football Academy will be held entirely at the Hawkeyes’ football performance facility.
The day-long session will allow participants to experience strength and conditioning performance tests, see what it’s like to take part in a team meeting and then participate in drills on two outdoor practice fields adjacent to the Hawkeyes’ indoor practice facility.
Ferentz said a number of former Hawkeyes are expected to be special guests at this year’s academy.
“Think Super Bowl rings and that type of thing,’’ she said. “We’re not quite ready to announce just yet who will be there and we’re still finalizing details, but we do expect some legendary Hawkeyes to be a part of it this year.’’