While superheroes help people in need, many are inspired by tragedy — Spider-Man lost Uncle Ben, Batman watched his parents die and Superman's planet was blown up.
Brian Chulik's origin story started with a visit to the emergency room.
The North Ridgeville resident was in the hospital in 2010 with a ruptured appendix when he saw children there facing more dire circumstances.
Enlisting the help of two friends, he started Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio that year. Today, the 100-person team dresses up as superheroes such as Captain America and Wonder Woman and makes 35 to 40 annual visits to kids battling illnesses at children's hospitals or special needs centers.
"I like superheroes for what they stand for," Chulik says. "They use their powers wisely and responsibly."
During Super Heroes Weekend, held May 7 in downtown Elyria, adults dress as super villains trying to overtake the city. It's up to area children, all in costume, to stop them. The annual event is inspired by the documentary Batkid, where the Make-A-Wish Foundation worked with the city of San Francisco to let a child dressed as Batman foil evil plans for a day.
"It's great to get dressed up and have fun," Chulik says. "But our reward is seeing the smiles on the kids' faces."
Avon resident Hector Cirilo has dressed up as Batman, Wolverine and the Flash at Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio events. But during Super Heroes Weekend you'll find him channeling his inner bad guy as the Joker.
It took me a long time to learn how to apply lipstick and eye shadow, but now I can get into makeup in about half an hour. You have to be extremely careful playing the Joker. He's supposed to be evil but rated-G evil. I want the kids to recognize me, but not be scared of me. I'm really surprised how much the kids know about Batman and the Joker. If anything, I scare more of the adults. Some adults are really scared of clowns.
Show off your superhero skills by volunteering with one of these three organizations.
If you're a patriot like Captain America:
Display your love of red, white and blue this Memorial Day by placing flowers, answering phones or donating refreshments at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Seville, the final resting place for more than 30,000 veterans and eligible dependents. 330-335-3069
If you're compassionate like Superman:
Sign up through the American Red Cross for on-call shifts as a responder who passes out food and drinks to those victimized by disasters such as fires, or as a caseworker who follows up with displaced individuals to ensure they're receiving the financial support and other items necessary to get on with their lives. 216-431-3010, redcross.org
If you're built like the Hulk:
Get your fill of heavy lifting by helping Habitat for Humanity load trucks with building materials at their warehouse or restore homes throughout Northeast Ohio. 216-429-1299, clevelandhabitat.org
Heroes Among Us
You don't need a cape or superpowers to be heroic. Ordinary people do brave things every day. Here are a few.
David Bailey, Austinburg:
The FirstEnergy meter tester was working in Concord Township when a man ran up to him, saying he'd cut off three fingers with a circular saw. Bailey put pressure on the wound, iced it, and kept the man calm while his co-worker called 911. Bailey was recognized by the Red Cross as a Greater Cleveland Hero. "I didn't do it for the recognition," he says, "but if it helps someone else, that's wonderful."
Liam McCarthy, Avon:
The seventh-grader gathered more than 3,000 boxes of macaroni and cheese — his favorite food — for the Second Harvest Food Bank and raised nearly $3,200 for Susan G. Komen in 2014. Last month, he gathered donations to benefit TrueNorth Cultural Arts, which he's been a part of since he was 6. "I like seeing the big number at the end," McCarthy says. "But I like knowing I'm helping people too."
Ta'Lasia Colvin, Springfield:
After hearing a talk about human trafficking last summer, the Baldwin Wallace University sophomore was inspired to raise money through the Gray Dress Challenge (wearing the same dress for 30 days) to raise money for Renee Jones Empowerment Center and Survivor's Ink, an organization that removes tattoos given to victims to brand them. "It symbolizes that now they have full ownership of their bodies," she says.