Artists Design Superheroes For Kids With Illnesses And Disabilities

The Superhero Project designs by artists (from left) Warren Fu, Takako Fisher and Jordan Patrzalek.
The Superhero Project designs by artists (from left) Warren Fu, Takako Fisher and Jordan Patrzalek. [The Superhero Project]
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Ask kids what makes a superhero and you’ll get many beautiful ideas, said Lisa Kollins, founder of the Superhero Project.

She would know as she’s asked nearly 300 kids for their thoughts.

Volunteer artists then take those ideas and create superhero characters for youth with serious illnesses or disabilities. The superhero designs are then printed on posters and mailed to the youth.  

Some of the creations include “Vasia Girl,” who spreads joy through music, “The Binky,” who rides in a little red wagon, and “The Net Queen,” who soars on the volleyball court.  

“A superhero can be anything that you imagine, and each of the characters is so unique,” Kollins said.

"Super Gold" by Chris Silvestre

By day, Kollins works as administrator of the Social Justice Institute at Case Western Reserve University. But since 2016, her alter ego has been running the all-volunteer Superhero Project.

The effort primarily serves youth in Northeast Ohio, but online inquiries led to collaborations in other countries. Kollins interviews kids and their families and provides the information to artists who work on the designs from anywhere.

“I had a friend who works in California in animation, he set us up with kind of the first group,” she said.

"Loggie Bear" by Josh Thompson

Word about the Superhero Project spread through its website and social media accounts as well as by word of mouth. Kollins welcomes requests for superhero designs and connections with artists willing to create them. Her dream is to one day expand the project for kids in the foster care system, experiencing homelessness or new to the area from other countries.

“There are lots of different groups of kids who would benefit from this kind of imaginative thinking, this kind of empowering activity,” she said.

An exhibit featuring the diversity of the characters created for the Superhero Project will be on view at the Art Palace near University Circle in Cleveland December 14-16.  

"Mi'Lani" by Charlie Ngo

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