It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s … a 6th grade science teacher?
I first met one of the local, superhero alter-egos at 6th grade orientation at Rocky River Middle School. It was apparent from his room décor that he was quite fond of superheroes. I thought his obsession was somewhat peculiar but also fascinating.
Over the next several weeks, I began to hear more stories about this science teacher—about how he dresses up as Batman, Green Lantern, and sometimes even Captain America; about how he appeared as an extra in some of the locally filmed superhero movies, and teaches “superhero science.” Woah. This guy is seriously obsessed. And, for a split second, I thought “Maybe he really is a superhero.” Little did I know.
Then, thanks to Wizard World Comic Con Cleveland, his secret identity was revealed: The 6th grade science teacher actually is Batman, that is, when he’s not Green Lantern, Captain America, or some other superhero. He and several other superheroes, in full hero garb, were at a Comic Con booth spreading the word about Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio, a nonprofit organization comprised of over 70 volunteers who become superheroes for children battling illnesses and adversity. They visit children’s hospitals, special needs centers, and charitable events throughout northeast Ohio. According to the organization, their goal is “to spread good will and smiles, through random acts of kindness.”
The group’s un-official beginning was in 2010, when Brian Chulik, Scott Smith, and Jimmy Myers visited the Cleveland Clinic Children’s hospital. They quickly gained support and encouragement for their heroic efforts, and now the legion of volunteer superheroes includes over 70 volunteers who visit Akron Children’s, The Cleveland Ronald McDonald House, The Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and other various hospitals. Superheroes have also assisted with Special Olympics, visited special needs centers and worked with New Avenues to Independence, as well as Camp Imagine, a therapeutic summer camp for children with disabilities. They also appear at various charitable events affiliated with “A Special Wish Cleveland” and the Make a Wish foundation.
I have personally seen the power of these superheroes on two separate occasions. First was at Giannathon, a Cleveland event that raises money to fund childhood cancer research. Second was at our local church, Bay Presbyterian. The superheroes appeared at a caregiver respite event, a free quarterly event for families with special needs children, designed to give parents a break from their everyday lives. I can tell you first hand that my son was thrilled to have the superheroes at church (and I was thrilled to take a break from my everyday life).
But, as co-founder Jimmy Myers says, “The kids are the real heroes!” I couldn’t agree more. Having met several children overcoming adversity, I can attest to their incredible superpowers. Also playing the role of superheroes are the parents, the siblings, nurses, doctors, etc. We are surrounded by superheroes every day. You just have to be able to recognize them without their capes on.
Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio is on call, ready for action. Just send up the bat signal (or a simple email would suffice, I suppose), and the superheroes will be on their way to bring joy to a child in need.
Volunteer: Have you ever wanted to don a tiara and be Wonder Woman for a day? Or maybe slip into some tights and a cape and be Superman? Here’s your chance! Follow the group’s simple steps on their website and you too can join the ranks of Cleveland’s greatest heroes.
Inform: Know a child battling an illness or dealing with adversity? Tell their parents or caregivers about this great organization. The superheroes (and princesses, too!) are ready and willing to perform random acts of kindness. You can visit their Facebook page or contact them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.