Then along comes a little story about window washers that suggests there is hope for humanity after all.
The story has its origins in England, where the Evelina Children's Hospital at St. Thomas' Hospital in London has made it a policy for their window cleaners to dress up as superheroes such as Batman and Superman. From its beginning, the hospital was designed as an environment for sick children that wouldn't feel like a hospital, and costume-clad cleaners nicely fit the bill.
An online article about the Evelina Children’s Hospital caught the eye of Michelle Matuizek, office manager of Allegheny Window Cleaning of Springdale, PA, and the wife of company president Edward Matuizek. One of the firm's clients is the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, and Michelle convinced her husband to give the idea a try here in the states.
The Matuizeks first ran the idea by Children's Hospital facilities director Elizabeth Munsch, who responded enthusiastically. Allegheny lined up $800 worth of theatrical-quality costume rentals and four experienced window washers to wear them for about two hours. Allegheny Window Cleaning absorbed the additional expense.
And so, this past October, the four Allegheny employees, dressed as Batman, Spiderman, Superman, and Captain America, rappelled down the building, washing the windows and exciting and delighting the children behind them.
"It was just awesome. The kids had such a good time, and it was so uplifting for everyone. We picked the patient care areas where the children aren't able to get out of bed, and they just went wild. Our superheroes here had tears in their eyes that day." – Michelle Matuizek
“All the guys had tears of joy in their eyes behind the costumes - it was very touching and overwhelming how excited the children were.” – Edward MatuizekWhen I first came across this story last fall in the newspaper I thought, now there’s a nice little feel-good story. Then I promptly forgot about it.
Thankfully others did not. The story of the costumed grime fighters appeared in the Pittsburgh newspapers and was picked up by the wire services, television news outlets and, ultimately, went viral on the internet. In recent months, similar superhero sightings have been made at children’s hospitals in Charlotte, Chicago, Memphis and St. Petersburg. There was an encore appearance at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh last week, and Edward Matuizek says his company is looking to make the appearance an annual event.
I hope the story and the concept continues to spread. Isn’t it gratifying to come across a story involving children in which no one is being shot or abused or suffering in a war zone? And isn’t it nice to know that there are still good people among us who understand that, for a child battling a disease or recovering from an accident, healing can be helped along with a smile and a happy heart? Bravo to those companies and their employees who get their work done and make sick children smile at the same time.
With or without costumes, these are some real superheroes.