After Saturday’s kids day celebration at Kinnick Stadium there was no denying it — Gabby Yoder was a star. 

Where other kids might shy away from the spotlight of news cameras and football players five times their size, Gabby ran to it. 

“Gabby loves to be the center of the world. She wants everyone to pay attention to her,” Abbie Yoder, her mom, said. “She just loves everything about living life fully and completely and embracing all the positive she can find.”

The 8-year-old girl from Kalona was chosen as one of 13 kid captains for this season’s Iowa football games. All of the kid captains are current or former patients at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. 

Gabby was born with a complex heart defect called hypoplastic right heart syndrome with pulmonary atresia. That means the valve between her heart’s right ventricle is underdeveloped and so far has required multiple open-heart surgeries. 

Over her first eight years, Gabby has endured three heart surgeries, multiple eye surgeries and constant visits to the doctor’s office for complications that come alongside those things. 

“She’s a kid that seems like every corner she turns she has another battle to face,” Abbie Yoder said. 

Despite the challenge of the heart defect, Gabby has taken it in stride and even reveled in it. 

For her birthday in June, her parents Abbie and Derek, asked her where she wanted to have her birthday party. It was a quick answer for Gabby, who said she wanted to have it at the children’s hospital. 

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Nick Moffitt is the Sports Editor for The News. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @nickmoff.

Sports Editor

Nick Moffitt is the Sports Editor for The News. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @nickmoff.

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