ELYRIA — The wind swirled and dark clouds rolled in off Lake Erie, almost creating the perfect movie-like scene for a villain-filled escapade through downtown Elyria.
Lex Luthor, played to perfection by Tim Misny, held Superman, Supergirl and Power Girl hostage at the Elyria Planet, aka The Chronicle-Telegram, as Poison Ivy and the Scarecrow attempted to rob Fifth Third Bank. Everything was in alignment for nothing, but mischief.
However, there is a flaw in every good plan. And, on this particular day, there were 11 youngsters ready to step in and upset whatever diabolical plan had been hatched.
“Super kids, there has been a prison break and villains are roaming the city,” said Debbie Bryant. “You got your capes. You got your masks. We are counting on you.”
It’s hard to imagine that a group of volunteers pulled off an event that brought smiles to so many faces. But Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio had a simple plan: Make the comic book dreams of a few deserving kids a reality. Months of preparation easily turned into hours of fun with Ely Square, The Chronicle-Telegram, Fifth Third Bank, Donna’s Diner and the Lorain County Justice Center serving as backdrops.
“We just want all of the kids to have fun,” said Brian Chulik, co-founder of the organization. “They are the reason why we do this. They are the real heroes.”
The anticipation of the day was palpable from the moment anyone set foot in Ely Square.
Quentin Guerra, full of 5-year-old energy, grabbed the sides of his green felt cape, let his arm flail out to the side and spun around in wide circles as the cape flapped in the wind behind him.
Nearby, his mother — pregnant with her third child — shook her head with delight and smiled. Quentin was ready for the virtual comic book event to begin, so in the meantime he did his best Superman impersonation.
“That kid right there is my hero,” said Jackie Guerra of Lakewood.
The day, meant to honor kids who have faced medical challenges or adversity, meant so much to Guerra because she has faced medical challenges, having endured seven open-heart surgeries in her lifetime and is on her eighth pacemaker.
Quentin is a happy, healthy boy.
“I guess you can say he is here because of me,” Guerra said. “I wasn’t supposed to have kids, but I had two beautiful, wonderful kids. My baby girl was born in May 2013 and died of SIDS on Thanksgiving. And, through it all, this little boy has been my rock.”
Now, ready to welcome her third child, Guerra said Quentin is still holding her together.
“I have to have iron therapy, but I’m a tough stick,” she said. “The last time I was there and it was especially rough, my Quentin grabs my hand and say, ‘It’s OK, Mommy. Take four deep breaths, and it’s going to be OK’.”
In all, 11 kids were chosen for the experience. They were Trey Kemper, 5; Bobby Miller, 8; William Clark, 2; Sam Mankins, 10; Aidan Wright, 4; Jayden Barber, 6; Carsen Barber, 5; Max Cousineau, 15; Anthony Cuevas, 12 and Will Myers, 11.
The day started with lunch for the super kids and their families at Donna’s Diner sponsored by Jeremy Cares, a nonprofit organization that supports families of kids going through medical treatments. The group started in 2008 in honor of Jeremy George, a leukemia survivor, to pay it forward for families.
George was 17 when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He is in remission and will soon graduate from Kent State University.
In all 70 people enjoyed a meal, said Donna Dove, restaurant owner.
“I had a blast, and those kids were so sweet,” she said.
Once the youngsters were properly fueled and accompanied by the Ohio National Guard Delta Company out of Brook Park, they were ready for the excitement to start.
“Don’t worry. I got this,” Jayden Barber, 6, said to his mother, Charlee Barbee, of Youngstown.
Dressed in his black Spider-Man costume, Jayden was all smiles behind his mask.
Nothing about him said three-time survivor of childhood cancer, yet in his short life Jayden has proved his perseverance. Superheroes, especially Batman, are his favorite escape.
Now, in remission he is just enjoying life and Saturday was eager to kick a little butt.
“We got the Kryptonite,” he said after helping to save Superman from Lex Luthor.
The bald bad guy was led away in handcuff and cheers, but the day kept going with scene after scene of action leading up to a major finale in Ely Square.
“This is really cool to be able to meet superheroes and fight crime,” said 11-year-old Will Myers of North Ridgeville.
Mom Pam Myers said to see her son getting in on all the excitement was wonderful, but also a little bittersweet. He’s a healthy kid and she is a healthy woman. Her story is not punctuated with surgery counts, chemotherapy tallies and tales of near death.
“He’s a hero because he’s a great kid,” she said. “He helps everyone. I think that’s really heroic, too.”
The Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio agreed too.
“We can all be superheroes every day,” said Stephanie Cirilo. “We’re heroes when we help our friends, do the right thing and treat others with respect. We are heroes when we never ever give up. Never let anyone tell us to give up and know we can do anything.”
The youngest super kid was 2-year-old William Clark of Lorain.
His cape didn’t flap in the wind as high as other,s but that’s only because his mom tucked it between him and his walker so it wouldn’t blow away. William, born with spinal bifida, moved all over Ely Square with such speed its hard to imagine he will be in leg braces and need a walker for the rest of his life.
“But with God’s will, we never know,” said his mother, Teresa Clark. “He has never let anything and especially his walker, stop him from doing and going where he wants to do. He is a happy little boy.”
The day meant a lot to the mom.
“It’s a good thing for kids with special needs,” she said “It was a day just celebrating them.”