Makayla Bell, daughter of Eric and Melanie Bell, had the honor of being kid captain at the University of Iowa's game against Illinois State University. Bell, who is eight, said last Saturday was “awesome.”
Bell was selected as kid captain after she was nominated by her parents. She was one of the 13 children chosen to be a Kid Captain this year.
“She [Makayla] said it wasn't quite what she had expected or what she had pictured in her mind. It was way better. It definitely exceeded her expectations or anything she could have possibly dreamed of,” Melanie said.
Makayla high-fived the players before they went to warm up before the game. She got to met the cheerleaders and the Golden Girl, who twirls a baton. She also got to meet the coach, stood near where the players stormed the field, stood by the players during the national anthem and also walked down the field with a former University of Iowa football player and one of her doctors.
While Makayla was on the field, she was introduced to 70,000 fans. As she was introduced to the crowd they shared some of her story.
At a young age, Makayla has already had 14 surgeries. Before she was born Makayla was diagnosed as having omphalocele, which means her organs were on the outside of her body because of a hole in her abdominal wall. She was also diagnosed with spina bifida, clubfoot, and her right kidney was dilated.
Born three weeks premature, Makayla was further diagnosed with OEIS Syndrome, which means that her abdominal wall structure did not form properly in the womb. She had her first surgery at just five days old.
“She walked out of the tunnel [and] the student section went crazy for her and was cheering. She was giving them high fives,” Melanie said. “That was pretty cool to see even the students supporting the kid captains like that.”
Makayla was also given a home team locker for her day as Kid Captain.
The University of Iowa will feature a Kid Captain at every game this season. The next captain will be honored at this weekend's CyHawk game. The program began in 2009.
“I think overall the Kid Captain program is just an amazing program...It's really neat how they pick patients and pick these kids that have been through so much,” Melanie said. “The players, the coaches and the students and everyone come together and make these kids feel special.”