Superheroes (and firefighters) bring smiles to some of the area's youngest patients
FOUNTAIN HILL, Pa. — What could only be described as magical energy filled the halls of the children’s hospital at St. Luke’s University Health Network on Tuesday.
Firefighters dressed as superheroes — a virtual dream combination for kids — stopped in for a visit.
The group of high-profile figures were part of the Humble Heroes, a volunteer group of the Fire Department of the City of New York.
"We give out gifts and just do our part.”Robert Banome, president of Humble Heroes of the Fire Department of the City of New York
"It's composed of all volunteers," said Robert Banome, president of the nonprofit organization.
"We dress up as superheroes. We lift the spirits of sick kids. We go into pediatric burn centers, cancer centers, ICUs and we give out gifts and just do our part.”
Banome said they started in 2015 and visited about 1,000 families in 2023 alone.
'It made him feel better'
The room of 3-year-old Emilio Gomez of Bethlehem was among the first stops during the visit.
"He was happy, excited,” said Emilio's mother, Madison Barnes. "It was amazing and made him feel better.”
Barnes said her son was being treated for complications from a cold.
Smiles came across the faces of pediatric patients like Emilio, as Spider-Man, Snow White, Batman, Ironman and other superheroes filled the St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital rooms.
"One of our lieutenants had a heart attack and was brought to this hospital. So in the course of just crossing paths with the staff, I saw how beautiful the hospital was. I saw the pediatric unit."Robert Banome, president of Humble Heroes of the Fire Department of the City of New York
Banome said he came across St. Luke's when a colleague was treated there.
"One of our lieutenants had a heart attack and was brought to this hospital," he said. "So in the course of just crossing paths with the staff, I saw how beautiful the hospital was. I saw the pediatric unit.
“We've been doing this for about eight years, so I just connected with Gretchen, the child life specialist, and she made it happen."
Gretchen Duffy, coordinator of Child Life services at St. Luke's Children's Hospital, said, "They were so thrilled with the care that they received that they popped down and said, 'Hey, we have this organization who comes to visit pediatric patients. Can we come visit your kids here?'
"And we said, 'Absolutely, we'd be thrilled to have you.”
'Positive memories of fun'
Duffy said quite a few community groups have been through to see their youngest patients, especially over the holidays, but nothing of this scale.
“Oh, my gosh, their eyes light up," she said. "Just the anticipation of knowing the superheroes were coming was enough to break the kids from maybe not feeling so well to cracking that first smile of the day and being just so excited. "
Such events are put on for children in an effort to bring positivity to a sometimes-scary medical situation.
“Special events like this really help kids to cope with the stress of a hospitalization."Gretchen Duffy, coordinator, Child Life services at St. Luke's Children's Hospital
“Special events like this really help kids to cope with the stress of a hospitalization," Duffy said. "There's lots going on here, they're in a foreign place, they're not feeling so well.
“So having some of these special events gives them the opportunity to kind of substitute those negative memories with these positive memories of fun and exciting things that we get to put on for the kids."