STC 4th grader honored as Kid Captain

Stead Family Children’s Hospital Kid Captain Bentley Steven waves at midfield against the Colorado State Rams Saturday, September 25, 2021 at Kinnick Stadium. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

Last weekend a nine-year-old boy from Gladbrook was honored by the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital and the Iowa Hawkeyes as a Kid Captain during the Hawks game against Colorado State.

Bentley Steven is a former patient at the Iowa City children’s hospital and was recognized as one of 12 Kid Captains by the Hawkeyes this year.

Bentley is the son of Ashley Steven and Mike Steven. He has two brothers, Carter (1st Grade) and Jackson (2-years-old) and is himself a 4th grader at South Tama County Elementary. Bentley’s mother Ashley is also a teacher at South Tama County Middle School.

Much of Bentley’s family lives in the Gladbrook-Reinbeck area including grandparents Dave and Sherri Denbow and Geoff and Marilyn Steven, uncle Jared Denbow and great-grandparents Dick and Jolene Denbow and Carolyn Groth.

Much of the family are Hawkeyes fans with roots in the university running back to Ashley’s cousin Mark Gannon who was a member of the Hawkeyes Final Four basketball team in 1980.

Bentley Steven holds a football autographed by the 2021 Iowa Hawkeyes and Coach Kirk Ferentz. Steven is pictured with Coach Ferentz and his parents Ashley Steven and Mike Steven during the Kid Captain Day at Kinnick Stadium in August. Steven was honored as the Kid Captain for the Hawkeyes on Sept. 25 during their home game against Colorado State. -- Contributed photo

A crew of close to two dozen family and friends traveled with the Stevens to Iowa City last Saturday to help celebrate Bentley’s special day with the team.

As a two-year-old, Bentley began experiencing severe headache episodes that were initially hard to diagnose.

He would suddenly keel over in excruciating pain but by the time his parents would get him to a hospital, the pain had subsided and several tests that were run would all come back normal.

Bentley’s pediatrician ultimately ordered an MRI which revealed a brain condition called Chiari malformation.

The problem that was discovered was that the back of Bentley’s brain was bulging through an opening in the skull, putting pressure on the brain and on the spinal cord.

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterbacks coach Ken O'Keefe and quarterback Spencer Petras (7) wave to Stead Family Children’s Hospital Kid Captain Bentley Steven against the Colorado State Rams Saturday, September 25, 2021 at Kinnick Stadium. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

The debilitating headaches came as a result of the flow of spinal fluid being restricted from the brain to the spinal column, particularly during times when Bentley would go from laying down to sitting up or standing in a quick motion.

Upon receiving the Chiari malformation diagnosis, Bentley was transferred to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City where he underwent a decompression surgery.

The surgery removed a small part of the skull which allowed Bentley’s brain room to expand as he continued to grow up.

However, at the age of four, Bentley’s Chiari symptoms came back and another decompression surgery was required.

Today Bentley is nine years old and has been able to manage his Chiari symptoms including occasional headaches in a way that has allowed him to grow and be a happy and active 4th grader.

Close to two dozen friends and family got together in Iowa City on Sept. 25 to help Bentley Steven celebrate his honor as Kid Captain for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Steven was chosen for the recognition as part of a UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital program in partnership with the university. -- Contributed photo

After spending countless hours traveling to and from Iowa City to work with the doctors and staff at the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, Bentley’s mother Ashley wanted to try and give her son a special experience to commemorate the journey their family has been on over the past five years.

She nominated him in early 2020 for the hospital’s Kid Captain program that partners with the Iowa Hawkeyes football team to offer 12 current or former UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital patients 18 years of age or younger special recognition during Hawkeye game days in the fall. They also receive a commemorative jersey and an invitation to a special behind-the-scenes tour of Kinnick Stadium prior to the beginning of the season in August.

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, Bentley’s family found out he was one of 12 children selected among a group of 257 nominees to be a Kid Captain in 2020.

The program was put on hiatus for a year last fall due to the pandemic and so Ashely and Bentley’s father Mike had to keep the news a secret for over a year as the 2020 Kid Captains recipients were rolled over into the following year.

When the time finally came for the 2021 football season to begin, Bentley’s Kid Captain experience kicked off with a Kid Captain Day at Kinnick Stadium in August.

Nine-year-old Bentley Steven poses with Herky the Hawkeye mascot on game day at Kinnick Stadium last Saturday. Steven was honored as a Kid Captain for the Hawkeyes. -- Contributed photo

There he and his family toured the stadium including the locker rooms and press box, received their Kid Captain jerseys and had an opportunity to meet the Hawkeye coaches and players as they rehearsed the Game Day entrance.

On Sept. 25 Bentley arrived at the stadium in the early afternoon to get ready for the Hawkeyes’ game against the CSU Rams.

He and his family were taken down to the tunnel that connects to the team’s locker room where they chatted and took photos with coaches Kirk and Brian Ferentz.

As the team and spirit squad made their dramatic entrance onto the field, Bentley was front and center giving fist bumps to all the players as they passed by.

Before kickoff a video presentation was shown to the 70,000 fans in attendance detailing Bentley’s story before he walked out to the middle of the field to wave to the fans.

The student section cheers on Kid Captain Bentley Steven from Tama County. -- Contributed photo

The family then were able to watch the game from the 50-yard-line as the Hawks took a 24-14 win over Colorado State.

Ashley said one of Bentley’s favorite keepsakes from the day was a Hawkeyes hat that Kirk Ferentz gave to him before the game.

One of the perks of being a Kid Captain for the Hawkeyes is getting to bring along a friend to experience it all with. Kurt Kvidera was alongside his friend Bentley Steven as Bentley was recognized Saturday as a Kid Captain for the Iowa Hawkeyes. -- Contributed photo