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Superhero September

Superhero mythology is that of overcoming great odds, tragedy, and sadness. Our most popular heroes, Spiderman, Batman, and Superman, overcame great personal loss to become heroes and help those who needed them most. Phoenix Police Department Crimes Against Children Unit Detective Sean Reavie created “Superhero September” in 2015 as a way to introduce this mythology of overcoming the odds to more than 7,800 children who come to the Childhelp Children’s Center annually, victims of unspeakable crimes. Investigating crimes against children since 2013, Detective Reavie began to recognize a pattern of the children he interviewed about their abuse. “The children came to the center sad and afraid and they left sad and afraid,” Reavie said. “I wanted to impact them in a positive way during the small window I had with them.”

This year, the event returns in full force. “Superhero September: The Fantastic Fourth” kicks off a month-long donation drive effort for the center. The Fourth Annual Super Main Event is September 8th from 9 a.m. to Noon at the Childhelp Children’s Center, 2120 North Central Avenue in Phoenix.

More than 40 professional Cosplay actors dressed as superheroes will be on hand along with a Kid’s Zone for face painting, cape making, superhero balloon making, and an amazing event to capitalize on the biggest superhero movie of them all: “Avengers Infinity War.” Thanos himself will appear and the children will partake in an Infinity Stone Scavenger Hunt. The infinity stones are hidden throughout the Kid Zone and when the children collect all six stones, they will present them to Thanos who will be wearing the Infinity Gauntlet.

Free to the public, the event is presented by AZCOPS and the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association. The Super Main Event will bring together the community as the Phoenix Police SWAT and Dive Team, The Phoenix Fire Department, Bikers Against Child Abuse, Molly Moo Ice Cream, and The Batmobile, will all be at the event. The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association will grill burgers and hot dogs.

From humble beginnings, the event has turned into the largest focused donation drive in the 19 year history of the Childhelp Children’s Center. Reavie set big goals for this year’s event. In year two, the event raised $6,000. Last year saw a 500 percent increase as things took off and $22,000 came to the center. Seeing the hyper growth of the event, Reavie changed his focus for this year’s event. “We started out just asking for superhero themed action figures and t-shirts,” Reavie said. “There are so many other needs here that I want the event to provide for all the needs of the children who come here.”

And what are those needs? Reavie said children come to the center with paper towels for diapers, holes in their shoes, dirty clothing, and hunger pangs. “It made no sense to give an action figure to a child whose belly was empty.” To address that need, Reavie set the goal for $50,000 this year. From two events in 2015 and one donation drive, there are eight events scheduled this year and 17 donation drives across the valley including Mayo Hospital, Paychex, eight Red Robin locations, and many others including all grades at Norterra Canyon Elementary School in North Phoenix.

Reavie is asking the community to “Put On The Cape” and become heroes to the children who come to the center. “Someone took away their right to be a little kid,” Reavie said. “We need to give that right back to them.” How can you help and become a real life superhero? Event coordinators are asking the community for monetary donations through their dedicated Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/superheroseptember) to set up donation drives for specific items, and sponsor some of their events.

The most popular event is the Superhero Shopping Spree held at area Target and Walmart stores. Superheroes shop in the stores with donated money to purchase items for the children. With three shopping sprees scheduled for this year, Reavie wants to add another in the east valley and is looking for help to do so.

The event has an immediate impact on the children. Reavie tells the story of a six year old girl, victim of sexual abuse, being transformed once she gained a superhero item. The girl was so terrified, she hid in the corner of the playroom, away from the other children. Seeing this, Reavie asked the playroom attendant to present a cape and cowl to the girl. “Once she put it on, she instantly jumped up, raised her arms, flew toward the other children and said she was a hero and was going to save all the other kids,” Reavie said. “We see similar reactions from the children each and every time they get a t-shirt and action figure.” With this immediate response, Reavie wants people to know they make a difference.

“Often times we don’t know what the impact of our generosity is,” Reavie said. “Trust me, the impact of giving to this event is immediate and lasting. It can’t fix what happened to them but it can change the way they see themselves in the mirror. We want them to see a hero looking back. That is our goal.”

If you want to sponsor an event, start a donation drive, or make a donation, contact Danielle Gilmore, the donation director at the center, at 602-271-4500 or via email at dgilmore@childhelp.org

Adena Astrowsky is a prosecutor and author of Mother of Souls, The Story of a Holocaust Survivor. She recently received an Amazing Women award from the Phoenix Suns and National Bank of Arizona for her professional and philanthropic work. She lives in Scottsdale with her husband and three children.