With the recent, record-setting success of “Avengers: Endgame” (it has raked in over $2.5 billion to date worldwide) we have witnessed the crowning achievement of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 22 superheroes movies. According to the New York Times, seven of the top 11 grossing films of 2017 were superhero movies.
Why is it that we seem to be a society obsessed with superheroes? What is it with this infatuation with these fictitious characters we know do not exist in real life? Why are we so willing to suspend all common sense and reality for the entertainment value? Is there more to it? Are we looking for the quick solution to have someone or some group come in to save us from ourselves? Or is it simply our desire to lose ourselves for a few hours in a harmless and easily consumed form of entertainment to take our minds off the everyday grind of real life?
If you happen to have seen all 22 Marvel films (and you know you have seen some more than once) you have invested in the equivalent of a three-credit college course in the 50 plus hours you have spent watching the films and then discussing with your fellow superhero fans. That’s quite the investment of time, energy, and emotions.
While we are infatuated with these fictitious stories of beings with superhuman powers, I would like to bring us back to reality and talk about the real-life superheroes who live among us even right here in Centre County.
Real superheroes are our first responders, our police and firefighters, our EMTs and other rescuers, including our military personnel. I will go even further to declare that real superheroes come in many forms of volunteers including people who provide daily care or who help raise money for those less fortunate. In essence, most of us can be a superhero to someone; we simply need to choose to spend some of our time, energy and talents helping others. You can be a superhero in the truest sense of the word by giving back and getting involved in any one of hundreds of charities and causes, whether they are on a national or local scale.
You can be a Captain Marvel or a Captain America to someone if you choose to give of your time and talents. Don’t be a spectator, be a doer. Get involved and lead.
In the next few months, donors and volunteers will be needed for fundraising efforts for organizations such as Coaches vs. Cancer, the Children’s Miracle Network, Centre Volunteers In Medicine, ClearWater Conservancy, Centre County PAWS, Mount Nittany Health Center Golf Outing, Mount Nittany Conservancy, and many others (see list of local nonprofits here.)
Just this past weekend my wife and I had the opportunity to give back and be a part of events that were much bigger than ourselves. On Friday and Saturday, we participated in the David’s Dreamers Celebrity Softball Tournament to help raise awareness and funds for the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. This is a lead up to this fall’s Alzheimer’s Walk, an annual event held in more than 600 communities nationwide to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. David’s Dreamers is one of many teams that participate in the annual walk.
Event organizer Michael Mister is the true definition of a superhero putting in countless hours organizing and executing an event that helps others. Michael and his team of volunteers successfully completed the second annual celebrity softball tournament and have now raised over $30,000 since its inception.
This year’s activities included a dinner at the Nittany Valley Event Center in Pleasant Gap on Friday evening followed by Saturday’s 22-team softball tournament held at Oak Hall Regional Softball Complex in Boalsburg. Saturday featured a homerun derby and celebrity softball game with many local celebrities, including Cresson, Pa. native country singer Josh Gallagher, who appeared on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2016. Josh, who just released a new album, played for over an hour on Friday evening to the delight of the crowd. It was a fun dinner that also included a musical performance by Sgt. Bob Timney.
The tournament is named for David Lee Thompson, who was born with Down syndrome and inspired everyone around him in the community. Per the program, “David touched the hearts of everyone he met.” The David’s Dreamers Team regularly participates in the annual Alzheimer’s Association Walk. To make donations to David’s Dreamers or to join the team, visit their alz.org team page.
Local celebrities included former Steeler Justin Kurpeikis, former Eagle Juqua Parker, Spikes General Manager Scott Walker, and Keith “Goon” Conlin. Plenty of local on-air talent participated including Jeff Brown, Jerry Valeri, Ryan Stanko, Jason Browne, Mary Ours, Corey Giger, K.C. Kantz, Candace Martino, Joe Murgo and the unofficial Mayor of State College, Brian “B.A.” Allen. Ryan Stanko was the Homerun Derby Champion for the second year in a row and Coach Jeff Brown’s Gray Team took down Coach Bucky Quici’s White team in a not-so-thrilling, but entertaining 7-1 victory. My claim to fame was going 2 for 2 and scoring my team’s only run before very ungracefully popping my hamstring beating out an infield single. Next year I will volunteer to coach or play “left out!”
A challenger game followed the celebrity game with each challenger player having a celebrity escort them to their positions. It was a fun two-day event that raised awareness and funds for a very worthy cause. all thanks to local superhero Michael Mister and his David’s Dreamers.
Late Saturday evening was another opportunity for my wife, Heidi, and me to give back to the community as we volunteered as chaperones for the State College High School all-night, after-prom party at the Mount Nittany Middle School. The party originated after a tragic mid-1980s prom night car crash took the lives of three State High students. It is a very worthwhile endeavor to give the students a fun and safe post-prom alternative.
I want to thank the evenings real superheroes who made up the committee including Shelly Ishler, Stephanie Dry, Jodi Leydig, Diane Kesidis and Michelle Pfeffer, and I want to recognize the rest of the parents, administrators, and teachers who gave their time to volunteer.
Watching the kids having a ball was worth the lack of sleep. I was joined in the casino by longtime friend Gloria Leous, who learned how to deal black jack and stayed on beyond her scheduled 2 a.m. duties to fill in to help these kids enjoy a night of fun. Once again it was the volunteers who made all the difference whether it was donating food or prizes or volunteering their time in the casino, the Cash Cab, the gym activities, the Prize Store or registration. Local Artist Chip Mock, who has volunteered for over 30 years to do free caricatures, was also on hand, as was local magician Richard Bennighoff, who wowed the audience with a 4 a.m. finale.
Geoff Brugler of Appalachian Outdoors was responsible for many of the prizes and also volunteered time as a card dealer in the casino, where kids could win “money” that they could use to buy donated items at the store. Prizes included an electric scooter, drone, television, AirPods, Patagonia backpacks, Yeti travel mugs and much more.
While these volunteers don’t wear masks and capes and have super human powers, they all have one thing in common: superhuman hearts.
There are plenty of places and ways to be a superhero to others in Centre County and beyond.
The real superheroes are all the volunteers and donors who are making a real difference in people’s lives. So, while the superheroes of Marvel Comics may entertain us, and even inspire us, there are plenty of real-life superheroes in plain sight. All you have to do is find the courage to volunteer to become one yourself.
The all-night after-prom party gives State High students a fun and safe post-prom alternative.