I joined Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio (SHTKIO) in February 2013. I learned about the group through Brian Chulik, my eighth grade science teacher at Rocky River High School, and one of SHTKIO’s founding members. Members of our organization suit up as Marvel, DC, and Disney characters to bring cheer to children who are facing adversity, most often in the form of illness, disabilities, and bullying.

Our group’s mission is as follows:
As “SUPER HEROES TO KIDS IN OHIO”, it is our goal to spread good will by (1) simple acts of kindness, (2) the recognition of individuals who have battled through adversity (3) and to encourage the involvement of ‘community’ to make a positive difference in the lives of others; especially children. We continue to make costumed visits to children’s hospitals, special needs centers, and various charitable events whenever we are needed, all in an attempt to bring a few smiles to kids and people.

Spiderman and Super Girl to the Rescue

Spiderman and Supergirl run the circuit with children at the Murray Ridge Center 500

I had been searching for a non-profit organization that I could be excited about contributing to—one where I could really make a positive difference through active involvement. I feel lucky that BrownFlynn has supported me and my colleagues in our desire to give back to the community by providing us with 40 hours of volunteer paid time off (PTO) each year. This time has enabled me to participate in many special events at schools and hospitals during work hours that I would not have been able to otherwise. While I can’t turn invisible, fly, or breathe underwater, I’ve learned that I can make a difference in the lives of others simply by wearing a costume and being present at an event or in a hospital room.

Through personal experience, I know that it can be very easy to feel alone when you are suffering. Because of this, it can be natural to want to hide pain from others, but one of the greatest things we can do as human beings is to share our experiences and how we’ve persevered over our suffering to bring comfort to others. It can give purpose to the adversity we personally have faced in that we may have felt alone in our experience, but we can help ensure that others never have to. In this way, our suffering can become a source of strength. Through helping to heal others, we ourselves heal. Every day, we influence the lives of those around us. We have the opportunity to tip the scales one way or another and be part of something bigger than ourselves. Because of this, anyone can be a hero.

The Wonder Twins biked 75 miles to raise money for individuals living in Northeast Ohio with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) during its 2014 Pedal to the Point ride.

The Wonder Twins biked 75 miles to raise money for individuals living in Northeast Ohio with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) during the 2014 Pedal to the Point ride.

The relationships our members have formed with one another and the families we visit have been life changing. We celebrate together and we grieve together. It’s an incredible privilege to be part of the lives and journeys of the families we work with, and while the ending isn’t always happy, the impacts the children have on everyone they touch are profound, lasting, and inspirational. Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio is honored to recognize these outstanding children as true heroes. Seeing the children’s faces light up when they see us in costume is one of the best feelings in the world. When we walk into a hospital room, we don’t always know the circumstances, but we can help make kids smile, hold their hand, and give them some encouragement and well-deserved recognition.

Since joining Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio, I’ve participated in over 30 events as Valkyrie, Wonder Twin Jayna, Super Girl, Mrs. Fantastic, Aquawoman, and Tinkerbell with the goal of bringing joy and temporary reprieve to children struggling with adversity. My brother has since joined the group as Wonder Twin Zan, my boyfriend as Mr. Fantastic, and my mom as the Fairy Godmother. Participation in Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio has been very transformative in my life. I used to think of myself as just a person in costume, but the insignia we wear and the characters we become have strength that has permeated my life out of costume. I find myself judging behavior on whether or not it is something a hero would do. I know that it is important to be accountable for my actions because to many children I visit, there is no costume. I am an actual super hero. And while it’s a big responsibility, it’s also the coolest thing in the world.

“A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a little boy’s shoulder to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.” – Bruce Wayne (The Dark Knight Rises)

The Fairy Godmother and Tinkerbell celebrate children who have graduated from the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at MetroHealth in Cleveland.

The Fairy Godmother and Tinkerbell celebrate children who have graduated from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at MetroHealth in Cleveland.