Iowa Hawkeyes have been naturally drawn to helping the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital, especially the football team. The hospital overlooks Kinnick Stadium, and one of the best traditions in college football was born from the children waving to everyone inside the stadium during games.
Center Tyler Linderbaum also wanted to support the hospital, but current COVID-19 protocols have prevented any public visitors at the hospital. The hospital used robots to give kids a tour of the football facilities recently, but what had been regular visits from athletes have not been permitted.
Using new rules regarding name, image and likeness, Linderbaum was able to put together a fundraiser for the hospital.
Courtney Blind, the director of corporate and community development for the children's hospital, says she was completely surprised when she heard from Linderbaum.
"We had no idea he was doing it, and it was so organic," Blind told ESPN. "Tyler himself sent an email to me and another member of my team and said, 'I'd like to do a fundraiser for you.' He said he didn't want to keep any of the money and wanted to give it all back to the hospital."
Linderbaum set up a website to sell clothing and accessories with 100% of the profit donated to the hospital.
Some of the clothing featured Linderbaum, who just won the Rimington Trophy as the best center in college football, waving back to the hospital and a message about supporting the kids. The fundraiser ran in early October through Oct. 17. After two days, he already had $10,000 donated.
"His initial goal was to raise $15,000, and I remember when he was setting that goal with my team," Blind said. "None of us were sure how realistic that would be, but we said let's go for it and he said he thought we could do it. After about four days in, he passed it and then he upped it to $25,000 and ended up raising $30,000.
"He was shocked and said, 'I can't believe people want to buy stuff with my name on it."
After the fundraiser, Linderbaum presented an oversized check for $30,000 to the hospital this past Friday.
It was unusual for the hospital workers to see a student walk up with a giant check for that amount of money. It might not be the last time they see that from student-athletes at Iowa, though.
Two Iowa teammates are following Linderbaum's example. Running back Tyler Goodson and defensive back Dane Belton are also conducting fundraisers through NIL deals to raise money for the hospital. Last spring, former Iowa basketball player Luke Garza sold an NFT and gave a donation to the hospital.
Linderbaum's donation, according to the hospital, will go to support general pediatrics at the hospital with the highest needs determined by leadership. That could be anything from research to new equipment, and it likely will meet immediate needs that otherwise would have had to wait.
"It was a really great moment for him, and we were able to have Alexander Bassuk, head of the department of pediatrics, come meet him, because this was the first check presentation we have done with any athlete," Blind said. "There are three football players working separately on fundraisers, but Tyler was the first one to finish up and make his donation, so this was really the kickoff to all of this."