Pulling for the kids

Local 'superheroes' work together to brighten the lives of children who need help
Participants from Bryton Entertainment dressed as superheroes for the Fifth Annual Plane Pull that benefited the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta, at Augusta Regional Airport in May.

Behind every superhero there are heroes who are just super.

That was the case with San Francisco’s “Batkid,” and it’s true in Augusta, too.

The city by the bay delighted the nation, and many around the world, when officials and volunteers Nov. 15 turned San Francisco into Gotham City and let a 5-year-old leukemia patient named Miles save the day as Batkid.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation made it happen, but not without the full and heartwarming support of the city, including police Chief Greg Suhr – who even went on TV to appeal for Batkid’s help – and Mayor Ed Lee, who gave the young crimefighter the keys to the city after he thwarted the Penguin and Riddler and saved a damsel in distress.

The stunt was intended to make a young cancer warrior happy, but it did much more than that. The sight of a major American city giving itself over to a child’s fantasies for a day – some 12,000 citizens took time out to line the streets and cheer Batkid on – brought thousands around the world to tears of joy.

“I’ve been crying about batkid all morning. Sometimes humans get it right,” one Twitter user wrote.

“The Batkid story has me crying off all my makeup. Worth it. High five, San Francisco,” wrote another.

Superhero actors Ben Affleck (Superman) and Christian Bale (Batman) shared their joy at seeing Batkid. President Obama took note. A bay area writer noted past celebrations of sports victories there, “But few have seen anything like Friday’s ‘Batkid’ phenomenon, which melted even the hardest of hearts and had people across the country weeping onto their computer keyboards at work.”

Why? It’s such a simple thing, after all. How could it capture the imagination this way?

Maybe because adults with so much else on their minds took it so seriously to give a little joy to a sick child. Maybe because the city’s apparatus – rather than find reasons why it couldn’t be done (liability, cost, resources, blah, blah, blah) – bought into it so completely. Maybe because it united a community for the briefest of moments.

And maybe because we’re all former kids, and even the most grizzled of us have the memory of that wide-eyed time stored in our minds’ attics.

Mostly, though, this story is about taking time out to love, and going out of your way to do it.

That’s the stuff real heroes are made of.

And we’ve got that kind of superhero right here, too.

The guys at Christian video production company Bryton Entertainment in North Augusta have been dressing up as superheroes and visiting hospitalized children at the former MCG Children’s Hospital for nearly a decade.

It’s a labor of love for Bryton co-founder Bryan Williams, who endured open-heart surgery himself at age 5 and fondly remembers being visited by a costumed Spiderman.

“I never forgot that visit,” he says.

He and his crew assembled some superhero costumes and began visiting other sick kids in 2004, which they do once a month. They also participate each year in the James Brown toy giveaway and Halloween with a Heart, a trick-or-treat event for children with disabilities.

Bryton Entertainment also has recently filmed some high-quality fundraising videos for the Ronald McDonald House here, which has broken ground on fabulous new digs for families whose little ones are hospitalized.

And just for pure fun, the Bryton folks attend the premieres of
comic-book-inspired movies to warm up the largely adult crowd.

It’s not just kids who can use a little encouragement, after all.

But as veterans of childhood, most of us have a soft spot in our heart for kids, and love to add a little magic and mystery to childhood. Kids struggling with health issues can move companies and entire communities to action.

And vice versa. In one remarkable instance, the Bryton superheroes encountered a toddler on his birthday and sang to him. His mother explained that he was non-communicative, and couldn’t thank them.

Suddenly, the boy surprised everyone by applauding.

“It’s kind of our attempt to better the world around us,” says Byrton co-founder Denton Adkinson.

In truth, costumed or not, we all have that power.

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