The Hero Design Company is an ongoing ArtWorks initiative started in 2012. Each season, 15 or so design apprentices ages 17-21 are selected to research and design unique superhero capes for children in our community. After meeting and getting to know one another, the apprentices spend weeks bringing each child’s vision to life before presenting the finished capes at a special cape ceremony.
ArtWorks apprentices have together designed over 730 capes to date for children across greater Cincinnati – many of whom are Cincinnati Children’s patients. This summer, they worked with 25 patients and siblings from the Cincinnati Children’s Champions Program to uncover their interests, capture their spirits, and celebrate just how super they are – it’s the largest number of capes they’ve done at one time.
The day of the cape ceremony, apprentices hung lights from the ceiling and the ArtWorks garage filled with the laughter and excitement of young champions. Some giggled with delight as they explored the colorful, cardboard cityscape at the front of the room. Others broke out in shy smiles as they were greeted by the familiar faces of design apprentices who would later present them each with a cape of their own.
“It’s a really moving experience,” says Rachel Rothstein, ArtWorks. “When the kids wear that cape and look at that cape, they can feel they are heroes.”
Among the many excited patients and siblings waiting patiently for their capes was Gideon, a 7-year-old champion who was born addicted to the drugs that his biological mother took during her pregnancy. His motor skills have been affected and he uses a walker, but Gideon has overcome incredible obstacles. Gideon’s parents – who adopted him when he was a baby – joined the Champions Program to inspire others with their story and celebrate Gideon’s strength through events such as this.
When Gideon walked into the ceremony room wearing his Flash t-shirt, his excitement was immediately recognizable by the grin stretched ear to ear. He looked around, mesmerized by the superhero décor and eager to receive his cape.
When the ArtWorks apprentices finally called Gideon’s name, he walked somewhat nervously to the front of the room before once again breaking out his megawatt smile at the sight of his silky new cape: green with a mop, bucket and bottle of laundry detergent emblazoned on the back. Gideon’s mom started to laugh.
Gideon loves to clean and keep his things tidy. His knack for organization and love for cleaning with mom and dad are things Gideon sees as his own strengths; his own superpowers.
When he rejoined his parents, both sporting their own super hero t-shirts, Gideon pulled his cape around to the front and studied it in awe, running his fingers along the seams that outlined the colorful mop insignia.
This is why Cincinnati Children’s so values its long-standing partnership with ArtWorks because they make patients feel special for qualities and characteristics much greater than any condition or illness.
The capes symbolize unique strengths in each child and serve as a constant reminder of those strengths.
Editor’s note: We extend a special thanks to Chloe Herzog, our summer intern who took these photos, wrote this story and expressed much adoration for these incredible patients and their families. Thank you, Chloe!