AVON — Super kids saved the day again, defeating villains from the Marvel and DC universes at the sixth annual Super Hero Day on Saturday.
The event, presented by Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio, wasn’t just a chance for kids to don their favorite costumes, it was also a day for those battling serious illness or adversity to take a step back from hospitals or treatments and see their favorite stories come to life. Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio is a nonprofit with close 80 volunteers who visit children’s hospitals and other charitable events in costume.
The day consisted of four rehearsed skits along the path and in the playground behind the Avon Aquatic Center, with Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio volunteers playing villains and heroes alike. Starting with the arrival of Batman villain the Penguin, played by Hector Cirilo, and a demonstration by Life Flight, kids worked together to save characters like Superman, played by Justin Hocebar, and Daily Planet reporter Jimmy Olsen, played by Jon Cupo.
For parents like Shannon Francis, of Ashland, it was a chance for her son, Levi, 7, to be a regular kid. Levi has cystic fibrosis, but that didn’t stop him from dressing as Batman to save the day.
“He really likes Batman, so he thought it was really cool to be out there and try to tackle the bad guys today,” she said. Batman is his favorite, she said, though the family probably will be spending some time learning some of the other heroes that were at Saturday’s event.
“It was exciting for me to see him have fun and not have to worry about treatments or anything else that’s going on in his life,” she said. “He had fun.”
Francis said this is her son’s first year participating in the event, after being nominated by the A Kid Again program. Levi spends a lot of time in treatment, she said, and often those with cystic fibrosis only live to their late 30s.
She said the first thing he was going to do after the event was call his grandparents and tell them about it.
“I’m sure what he’ll do the second he gets in the car is call everybody to tell everybody he got to take the bad guys down,” she said.
Many of the faces behind the masks Saturday were well-known to Avon residents. The super kids saved Mayor Bryan Jensen, after the Penguin said he wanted to be mayor — promising the kids unlimited candy and the parents a drop in taxes. Economic Development Director Pam Fetcher may have helped in Jensen’s capture, playing Poison Ivy for the afternoon’s skits, while personal injury lawyer Tim Misny was a convincing Lex Luthor determined to take over the city. WKYC-TV reporter Dawn Kendrick took on her comic alter-ego as Lois Lane.
Meanwhile, City Council Chairman Craig Witherspoon stood by as Disney’s Mr. Incredible, after organizers contacted him Friday with the open role.
“They said they had a costume that would fit and I said ‘OK’ — so here I am,” Witherspoon said. “If I can bring a smile to some of the kids’ faces, that’s (what’s) important.”
While Witherspoon said he enjoyed the day and his alter ego, he said the super suit will not be making an appearance at any City Council meetings.
After the city was saved, Jensen recognized each super kid with a certificate and posed for photos.
Charlene Stolle, of Middlefield, said her son, Nathaniel, 4, had agonized over which superhero to be — stuck between Batman and Spiderman, before picking the latter. Nathaniel is battling a rare form of cancer, Stolle said, and had recently had setbacks in treatment, but that didn’t stop him from battling the forces of evil.
“He just had radiation this past week and he’s had some new recurrences, but in spite of it you see how good he looks,” she said. “He is our little superhero. He’s doing well.”
She said she first heard about Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio at an event at Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-In in North Ridgeville, and since then the organization’s president, Brian Chulik, has taken the family under his wing, inviting them to events like Super Hero Day.
“(Levi’s) our superhero every day with everything he’s been through, but this is a great opportunity for him … to have a special day and no doctors, just to be a kid,” Stolle said.
For Francis, like Stolle, the community support at Super Hero Day was amazing.
“It’s just really special that they think enough of complete strangers to care enough about these kids and everything to come together and make them happy for a day,” Francis said.