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Elementary Students Rise to the Challenge, Redefine 'Superhero' for Baby Maddox Day

by on April 29, 2015 6:00 AM

Twenty-two-month-old Maddox Raptosh has spent about a third of his young life in hospitals and operating rooms.

His mother, Michele Raptosh, vividly remembers everything her child has overcome since his birth last August. He was born with a hole in his stomach, which kicked of a series of health issues including multiple hernias, infections, surgical complications, a liver transplant, and more.

Although Maddox may not have fantastic powers or wear brightly colored tights, Raptosh says that her family still lovingly refers to him as their “little superhero.” 

Then on Tuesday, which was National Super Hero Day, something truly super happened.

At Gray’s Woods Elementary and Grace Lutheran Preschool (where Maddox’s two siblings go to school), everyone from students to teachers dressed in their favorite superhero gear to celebrate “Baby Maddox Day.”

Makayla Raptosh, a second grader at Gray’s Woods, says watching her youngest brother go through so much pain and suffering has frightened and saddened her. But when she looked around at her classmates on Tuesday – some who were wearing handmade capes that said things like “Go Maddox” – she felt happy again. 

“He’s been through a lot,” Makayla says of Maddox. “I really think he’s a superhero.”

But Makayla may very well be a superhero in her own right

Her teacher Erin DiPerna calls her “incredibly resilient,” managing to stay friendly, compassionate and on track in school despite everything going on at home.

Raptosh sadly admits that her time in the hospital with Maddox means she’s sacrificed a lot of time with Makayla and her other son Max. She’s missed first days of school, cheerleading practices, dance practices and other moments she knows she’ll never get back.

But despite so much hardship, Raptosh says her children never let her down. Makayla, especially, has truly risen to the challenge. As the oldest child, she’s taken it upon herself to look after her brother, study his ailments and memorize his medications.

“Makayla’s had to ride with me in the car while driving to the emergency room,” Raptosh says. “And she was making sure her brother was still breathing in the backseat.”

DiPerna says the “Babby Maddox Day” celebration was organized through the school’s parent-teacher organization as a way to celebrate Maddox’s fighting spirit, to stand in support with the Raptosh family, and to help the students celebrate the superheroes in their own lives

While it can be difficult for families and children to confront death and disease, DiPerna hopes it can help her students learn the value of empathy, compassion and support for those in need.

“It’s incredible the way that everyone has come together today,” DiPerna says, wearing an Avengers tee-shirt. “I believe that with every storm we weather together, we grow stronger.”

And at the end of the day, Makayla and Raptosh just want to see Maddox grow stronger.

“I hope he can lose his meds and that nothing else goes wrong and he can play football and stuff,” Makayla says.

For every needle poke, scan, test and surgery that Maddox goes through, Raptosh adds another colorful bead to a strand that “has to be a mile long” as a visual reminder of everything that Maddox has overcome.

But for Raptosh, each bead is also a reminder to treat everyone she meets with the compassion and support that she’s received from everyone around her. She says she’s been “truly touched” by the way everyone from close friends to total strangers have supported her family, and she hopes to do the same for others.

“There are so many Maddoxes out there, and they all need to be recognized,” Raptosh says. “There’s not a family out there who hasn’t gone through something traumatic like this. With everyone you meet, you begin to realize that everyone is going through the same thing you are in some way.”


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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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