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Saturday marked the first time Beau Atkinson, 12, of Central City had ever been in Kinnick Stadium, and the University of Iowa Children's Hospital knew how to make the day special.

Atkinson, who suffers from severe hemophilia, was one of 13 kids from around Iowa who have been a patient at the Children's Hospital to be named a Kid Captain for the upcoming Iowa Hawkeye football season. Saturday was an introduction to what it exactly meant to be a Kid Captain.

"Seeing Beau take it all in is amazing," Kari Atkinson, Beau's mother, said Saturday. "It's just a day of pure joy for the entire family."

Each kid will represent the Hawkeyes for a football game in the season. Those who have home games like Beau, who will be the captain for the Nov. 21 Purdue game, will escort the team onto the field, stand with them during the national anthem and have great seats for the game, Kari said.

"When I found out I was a captain, I just kind of said 'what?' and was very happy," Beau said. "I was really excited to come here and not have to go to the hospital."

Trips to the Children's Hospital are numerous, but sporadic, for the Atkinson family, Kari said. One year, they had to visit three times and then didn't have to come back for five years. "The people at the hospital are basically family now," Kari said.

So to be able to visit Iowa City for nothing but fun meant a lot to Beau. He got a guided tour of the infamous pink visitor's locker room by UI football's director of new media Max Allen and met Brian Ferentz, son of current Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz.

Then, all the children and their families were escorted to the home locker room, where banners with their faces on them hung next to personalized jerseys. Beau put his jersey on, smiled and was eager to show off the jersey to his family.

Nola Riley, a marketing and communications employee at UIHC, buzzed throughout the locker room with camera in hand, capturing every moment she could for the hospital and for her own collection. "I've kept every photo I've taken the past seven years," Riley said.

The Kid Captain event was held at the same time as Kids Day at Kinnick, when kids and their families are welcomed to come and take in practice and meet Hawkeye players.

Riley has attended each Kids Day at Kinnick, and each Kids Captain event, she said. "Kids Day is the best day of the year, so this is my seventh best day ever," Riley said.

Soon, the Kid Captains were being escorted out onto the the football field with players as if they were heading out for a game, with families makings rows of people players and kids could run through. Those in attendance for Kids Day cheered as they took the field.

"It just never gets old; all these kids are so courageous. They really deserve a day like today," Riley said.

Beau was escorted by sophomore linebacker Bo Bower from West Branch, got his autograph, posed in pictures with Bo and the seven family members there with him and then got to meet head coach Kirk Ferentz and Herky the mascot himself.

"This has been amazing; I don't think anything will top this," Beau said while standing on the field surrounded by football players, families and fellow Kid Captains. "Maybe the Purdue game will be better than this."

"This was just absolutely amazing," Kari said.

Reach Zach Berg at 319-887-5412, zberg@press-citizen.com, or follow him on Twitter at @ZacharyBerg.

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