Heroic Inner Kids
Holding out for a hero? This nonprofit has a whole bunch
by Allison Hatfield | February 18, 2020
Daniel Sanchez wanted to see Speed Racer. He loved the Japanese media franchise about automobile racing as a kid, and when he saw an ad in the newspaper that the car was going to be at a comic book event at the Irving Convention Center, he told his wife he had to go see it. “So we grabbed our Halloween costumes — Tony Stark and Tomb Raider — and went to the thing, but the car wasn’t there!”
Instead, a group of people dressed as superheroes had commandeered the empty spot where Mach 5 should have been displayed. They were taking a group photo, and Batman waved at Iron Man to get in the picture. “And that was how I came to know Heroic Inner Kids,” says the indisputable Christopher Reeve look-alike who is now national president of the nonprofit.
Founded five years ago in D-FW by Rebecka Haskins-Hunt, who suffers from 23 diagnosed diseases at once, Heroic Inner Kids is an all-volunteer organization of men and women who dress in costume and visit children who are ill, those with special needs, and the economically disadvantaged.
The characters the group represents range from Superman and Wonder Woman to Princess Leia and Mickey Mouse. They include Spider-Man, Captain America, Buzz Lightyear, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The range is expansive and the costumes are incredible, but screen-accurate outfits aren’t the point. Kids are.
“When I met Rebecka, she said, ‘We dress up for these kids and we make them happy.’ And I said, ‘I’m in,’” Sanchez recalls.
The appeal of superheroes to children is near universal, and when a character they recognize calls them by name, gives them a hug, takes a photo, shows them a trick, or spends time reading to them, something magic happens.
“Characters have instant relatability, because the kids have seen the movies so many times,” Sanchez says. “They feel like they know us, and we’re already someone they want to be friends with. When we like them back, their little hearts just swell up with joy. You can feel it.”
And sometimes the connection goes beyond an afternoon in a hospital room or a few hours at a Shriners ball. “If I meet a child who is likely terminal, I will stay in the life of that family,” Sanchez says. Three times he’s been called to say goodbye to a dying child. He’s given a eulogy dressed in his blue and red unitard. And last year, along with five other superheroes, Sanchez as Superman served as a pallbearer at a young boy’s funeral.
It’s fitting if you think about it. Whether you’re a child or an adult, what could be better than having a benevolent figure with superior abilities around during the worst times of your life?
Sanchez sums it up like this: “When a hero is real, then maybe hope can be, too.”
To learn more and find out how you can volunteer or request a visit, go to heroicinnerkids.org.
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