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For first time, men can enroll in (virtual version of) Iowa Ladies Football Academy


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When Mary Ferentz revealed that the 10th and final Iowa Ladies Football Academy would be held in June 2020, she heard back from a lot of bummed women. The academy, which had raised more than $2.4 million over nine years for the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital, is known as a unique and unforgettable annual experience.

But then COVID-19 happened and pushed back the “10th and final” academy. Lingering uncertainty surrounding the pandemic has pushed it back again, so the “10th and final” is now being planned for June 2022.

But that three-year gap between events has at least allowed an opening for an alternative option.

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"When we had to postpone it again, we didn’t want to let another whole year go by,” said Ferentz, the wife of head coach Kirk Ferentz and co-organizer of the Ladies Football Academy (LFA). “What can we do?”

Behold … “A Night with Iowa Football” presented by the LFA, on June 10.

And for the first time, men are allowed to participate.

This experience will be a 90-minute online program, with participation capped at 3,000 individuals. In a normal year, participants are required to make a minimum donation of $500 to the UI Children’s Hospital. The minimum for this year’s event is one-tenth of that — $50, for a virtual experience that Mary Ferentz promised would feel similar to the usual all-day academy.

Tickets are available at IowaLadiesFootballAcademy.com.

On the menu: Time with Kirk Ferentz; a popular players’ panel, which this year includes quarterback Spencer Petras and wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr.; a “film room” session with defensive coordinator Phil Parker and starting defensive backs Matt Hankins; a song performance of “We Wave” by former Hawkeye player Dalles Jacobus; virtual tours of the facilities and more.

Iowa football coaches and players are annually the stars of the LFA. But the cause — the UI Children's Hospital — remains the primary focus.

In 2017, Kirk and Mary Ferentz personally donated $1 million toward neonatal research at the hospital. It is a cause near and dear to their hearts; Savvy Elizabeth Ferentz was born after 21 weeks, 5 days of gestation in 2014, but was unable to survive.

“In spite of everything, things have not slowed down at Children’s Hospital,” Mary Ferentz said. “They treat 78,000 or 79,000 kids a year. The need is still there.”

An online auction (open to everyone, not just participants) goes live Friday at the LFA website and runs through the June 10 event. Among the prizes up for bid are food and drink with Iowa coaches inside the Kinnick Stadium locker room; fine jewelry donated by local merchants; suite ticket packages for all seven home-game weekends; a hunting weekend for 10 at former Hawkeye Austin Blythe’s lodge in Parnell; plus a bevy of Hawkeye apparel and memorabilia.

All funds raised go directly toward the goal of $1 million to endow a full-time child life therapist position at the hospital. Those therapists are skilled at meeting the social and emotional needs of young kids who might experience fear and anxiety over hospitalizations and treatment.

"They play a really important role and rely very heavily on philanthropy for their existence," Mary Ferentz said.