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Costumed Penn State Students Bring Joy To Local Kids In Need

Have you ever thought about dressing up as your favorite fictional character and helping bring a smile to children’s faces? If so, Penn State’s Alliance of Heroic Hearts might be the perfect club for you.

The Alliance of Heroic Hearts is a non-profit organization and club at Penn State with the sole purpose of “bringing out the hero in ordinary people.” Its goal is to educate, encourage, and inspire children everywhere by dressing up as superheroes, Disney characters, and anybody that kids can recognize. Group members work events around the community to show kids that they don’t need superpowers to make a difference.

Members participate in events like birthday parties, literacy events at schools, anti-bullying campaigns, and visits to children’s wards in hospitals. In the earlier days of the club, members needed to do a lot of outreach to try and find different organizations in the community that wanted to work with the new club. 

“We were creating a backstory for ourselves and why we should be invited to future events,” said club co-President Gregory Patrick, who traditionally suits up as Captain America.

As it continued to grow as a club, the Alliance of Heroic Hearts started to be more recognized in the local State College area and other areas in central Pennsylvania. Now, the club doesn’t need to work too hard to find opportunities for those in need.

“We get invited to way more events than we personally have to host,” Patrick said. “This is great because it makes it easier on our part trying to keep organized. Now, it’s more of a scheduling thing and less of trying to host an event for a cause that we find very important. We can join and help emphasize some that already exist.”

The passion of the members is clear. Mariana Neto, the club’s other co-president and resident Wonder Woman, says that the kids enjoy having their favorite characters around and they immediately connect with the team.

“In one event, when I arrived, most of the team was already with the majority of the children,” she said. “As I was just dropping off my backpack, a little kid came running to me and just held me and she wouldn’t let go. She was crying, and I was crying. I was just shocked at how loving they can be and how quickly they just know that you are there to help them.”

Courtesy of the Alliance of Heroic Hearts

Patrick said one of his favorite events is with an organization called TIDES, which offers support and group therapy sessions for grieving families. It is one of their most serious events, with the goal of helping the kids so the parents can have some time to themselves. 

“It never really gets old seeing a kid’s face light up because they think the real Captain America or the real Wonder Woman, or whoever you are has taken time out of their day to spend time with them,”  Patrick said. “Despite it being a relatively serious event, that doesn’t stop everybody there from embracing the community and enjoying that we are all there together.”

During the past 16 months, the club has slowed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members were able to hold a couple of online events, but the club has been mostly on a hiatus since it wasn’t able to go outside and get in contact with kids in need.

This semester, however, members are back in the game. As things are starting to open up, the Alliance of Heroic Hearts is starting to get up and running again.

“Because we’ve been virtual as Penn State students for the past year and a half, a couple of members have graduated,” Patrick said. “We’re still trying to revitalize the club and trying to give everyone a new sense of vigor and hopefully we can come back and be better than ever.”

Joining the club is easy and requires only attending regular meetings. The group’s veterans handle all other duties, including costumes and clearances.

“Costume-wise and all those other aspects, we really help you through all the process so that it’s as easy as possible,” Neto said. “You don’t need to have your own costume upfront, you just want to really want to do it.”

Everyone is encouraged to reach out, and no prior experience with children is required.

“We are a group of really friendly people. We are a lot of fun, so if there is anybody that likes costumes, they like helping children, they like raising money for cancer research, we definitely encourage you to reach out,” Patrick said. “The kids are super kind, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s my personal favorite thing about my experience here at Penn State.”

If you are interested in joining the Alliance of Heroic Hearts, send an email to [email protected] today.

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About the Author

Renata Daou

Renata is a junior majoring in International Politics and one of Onward State's contributors. She's from Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil and no, she doesn't live in the middle of the Amazon forest. She likes learning new languages, reading, writing, and talking about the one time she went bungee jumping.
Follow her on Twitter @renatadaou to see her rant in Portenglish or e-mail her at [email protected] for serious inquires.

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