CLEVELAND, Ohio—Eight-year-old Richie Montgomery and his family have spent many nights in the hospital treating his complex muscle condition. 

  • An Ohio-based project is turning kids facing health challenges into superheroes
  • The Superhero Project interviews children and then creates an illustration depicting the child as a superhero
  • One family that has benefited from the project says it’s been motivating for their son, who suffers from a complex muscle condition 

“So, he has had a lot of complex care for his entire life. That's included a trach and a ventilator when he was much younger, lots of surgeries, feeding tubes, that kind of stuff,” said Nikki Montgomery, Richie’s mother. 

But he’s getting some extra motivation, thanks to Lisa Kollins and The Superhero Project —which Kollins thought of while working at a camp for kids impacted by HIV. 

“We had the idea to interview each of the kids the first night of camp and find out what their superhero alter egos would be, what they would stand for, what they would fight for, what they would look like,” said Kollins. 

So, Kollins, who works in Cleveland, recruited some artists, and started interviewing youngsters with challenges like Richie. 

According to child life specialist Stephanie Smith, with Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, these characters are more then just fun illustrations.

They’re super powers for children walking through the hospital doors. 

“Attitude is everything. Perspective is everything,” said Smith. “The mind-body connection is real and it runs really deep, so creating these opportunities, these therapeutic opportunities that The SuperheroPproject offers, is a huge way that kids can feel powerful and feel in control. 

And about 250 superheroes later, Kollins has brought smiles to kids’ faces all across the country, by creating a website where kids anywhere can participate — no matter what challenges come their way.

“What we really love is when the families send back a photo of the kids holding their posters, and it’s those smiles that make you realize that it means something to them, that it’s making an impact,” said Kollins.

An impact that Richie’s parents say has motivated their son during trips to the hospital.

“They have a chance to feel a sense of their own strength and power, and so instead of relying on some of these personas that we see out in the world, they can create something for themselves and I think there’s something really empowering about that,” said Nikki Montgomery.

It’s all proof you don’t need super powers to make a heroic difference. ​

You can learn more about The Superhero Project here.