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'Nest' for UIHC children may adorn Kinnick

BY NICK HASSETT | SEPTEMBER 20, 2012 6:30 AM

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T.J. Anderson knows Herky better than most people. The 2010 alum donned the Herky suit for three years. Though Anderson earned a degree in finance, he jokes he might as well have “majored in Hawkeye athletics.”

And now he’s coming back to Kinnick, leading an initiative to build Herky’s Nest, a premium seating area for children at the UI Children’s Hospital.

Anderson said the nest would be in the green space located in the southwest corner of Kinnick Stadium. He said original idea was for Herky to roost during the games and cheer on players. But after Anderson graduated, he took the idea in a whole new direction.

“I wanted [Herky’s Nest] to have the most positive, philanthropic impact to it,” Anderson said.

Currently Anderson estimates the project would cost $500,000 to build, which will be paid for through donations and other fundraising efforts. He said he hopes the nest will be completed by 2016.

Anderson was inspired by organizations such as the UI Children’s Hospital and the Kid Captain program in developing the mission of Herky’s Nest: to create a special section of the stadium dedicated to UI Children Hospital’s pediatric patients and to create a focal point for on-going fundraising in support of the kids and their families.

Cassondra Webb, the mother of Shawn-Brooklyn Young, a patient in the Kid Captain program, said she liked Anderson’s idea.

“That sounds really neat,” she said.

Anderson said he is working with officials from the UI Athletics Department, who must approve the plans before Herky’s Nest can be built.

“The university [officials] have said that they’ve liked the idea, but they’ve had a couple of construction projects underway, and those have to take priority,” he said.

Though many overall have shown enthusiasm for the project, some have also expressed concern for the proximity to the student section. Anderson said he has already considered such concerns and has several plans to curtail negative exposure from boisterous fans including assigned seating near the area and added security.

“The most important thing about this project is the safety and well-being of kids and families at the children’s hospital,” he said.

Anderson also plans to establish a Herky’s Nest Student Committee with at least a dozen students from various organizations at the university, including Dance Marathon, UISG, and Hawk’s Nest.

“It’s been going very well, they’ve been incredibly receptive and willing to work with us,” Anderson said.

The initiative has also gathered almost 500 “likes” on Facebook, and is about to launch a new website this coming Monday.

Herky’s Nest also partnered with the American Marketing Association Iowa chapter last year, in which the organization provided them with advice and direction.

“We worked on a lot of initial marketing strategy with T.J. including the website design, campaigns, and video layout,” said Alexis Kuennen, who is now the director of finance and membership with American Marketing Association, in an email.

“We also came up with the initial ‘take the pledge’ campaign and have given him suggestions for updates on the Herky’s Nest Facebook page,” she said.

While the initiative has garnered support in the community, Anderson acknowledges that the project has a ways to go and hopes the university will see the unique appeal of Herky’s Nest.

“There’s nothing like this on any other college campus,” he said. “If the University of Iowa is the first to do something like this, it would be pretty special, and could generate national news coverage, and be replicated by other schools around the country.”


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