Cancer survivor Kale Schmidt taking on Kinnick with the Hawkeyes

11-year-old Kale Schmidt is celebrating five years of cancer and fulfilling a long-held dream of becoming a Kid Captain.

Jerod Ringwald

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz signs a ball for kid captain Kale Schmidt during “Kid’s Day at Kinnick” at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, August 14.

When Kale Schmidt was undergoing chemotherapy at Stead Family Children’s Hospital five years ago, he and his family looked out over the Kinnick Stadium field during home games. Kale wanted to join the Kid Captains on the field.

“We would go out during home games, if he felt like it, and watch and he could see the Kid Captains on the Jumbotron, and he would always say, ‘They look like they’re having fun,'” his mother, Erica Schmidt , said.

RELATED: Week 5 Kid Captain BraeLynn Krisinger Ready to Cheer on Hawkeyes

Kale, now 11, is celebrating five years of cancer and is getting ready to cheer on the Hawkeyes as Kid Captain when they take it on Saturday at Penn State.

The sixth-grader was diagnosed with a bilateral Wilms tumor, a form of kidney cancer, the summer before entering kindergarten in 2015.

“When he was first diagnosed it was really like a kick in the face or gut because he was a healthy little boy who hadn’t missed a day of 4-year-old kindergarten,” Erica said. “He had a perfect turnout, and that summer he got sick. With two other little ones at home it was difficult – we missed a lot of milestones.

He was later diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma and stayed at Stead Family Children’s Hospital until April 2016 – completing chemo treatment in June of that year.

Erica said staff and hospital were supportive during the family’s long stay.

“They became family,” Erica said. “They were there for me. I have friends and family outside the hospital, but at 2AM, when I couldn’t sleep, I could talk to the nurses like they were my husbands, my friends, whoever.”

Erica began nominating Kale to be Kid Captain in 2016, and he was eventually selected in 2020 — but COVID-19 forced the season to be postponed.

With COVID-19 making the season uncertain, Kale’s parents decided to keep the fact that he was nominated for Kid Captain a surprise until they went to Iowa City to do a photo shoot for the Kid Captains.

“We didn’t tell him what we were doing until we were in the car to drive it,” Erica said. “We told him it was just an appointment to get ready for his five-year scan, and when he saw what it was, his face lit up a bit and said, ‘Is this real?'”

Kale spends his time outside of school helping out on his family’s farm in Goose Lake, Iowa. He also keeps pigs.

“When they’re babies, I get to know them, and I work with them and show them,” he said.

He said he’s excited to be Kid Captain and looking forward to talking to Offensive Lineman Luke Empen, who is also from Goose Lake.

Erica said she appreciates the time Hawkeye athletes spend interacting with the kids at Stead.

“It’s not something they have to do, but it’s something they do,” she said. “The smiles and laughter that happens when the players come in and visit all the kids on the floor was really fun to watch.”

Comments are closed.