“Batman” visits the Adams County libraries –
Story and photos by Patricia Beech –
Several hundred children across Adams County gathered at their local libraries on July 6 for a visit with the comic book icon, Batman, from “Heroes for Higher.”
Hosted by the Adams County Library, the “Heroes for Higher” program is designed to inspire children to make positive life choices.
“Kids need good role models,” said Library Director Nick Sloan. “They love Batman and they pay close attention to his message. He encourages them to become involved in their communities by inspiring them to believe in themselves.”
The Caped Crusader arrived at each of the libraries in his 22-foot long Batmobile to deliver his four-point “Be the Hero” message: 1) Never give up, 2) Always do the right thing, 3) Help other people, and 4) Never be a bully.
The man behind the mask, John Buckland of Huntington, West Virginia, says he wants to inspire kids to find the hero within.
Dressed as the tall, square-jawed comic book hero, he towers larger than life over the children as he tells them, “You can grow up and become heroes in your own lives.”
A former firefighter and veteran of the Iraq War, Buckland is passionate about his cause. “I do what I do to make the world a better place by helping one child at a time,” he says. “If we empower children, we can inspire them to become who they were created to be.”
Buckland and his “Heroes for Higher” team (Spiderman, Captain America, and Bat Girl) suit up to share their message of hope in both large and small venues.
“We have done over 300 ‘Be The Hero Against Bullying’ school tours, we visit churches, youth camps, sporting events, birthdays, fundraisers, and public libraries,” he says. “We visit children fighting illnesses in hospitals, and children who have been abused, and we do outreach for their family members.”
A victim of abuse when he was 12 years old, Buckland says the experience sent his life spiraling into chaos.
“My life was full of trauma that I held inside, and I began making one mistake after another, taking my pain out on the entire world,” he said. “The thing about life is it’s never too late to redefine yourself and leave your mistakes behind.”
After years of turmoil he turned his life around and began helping others, eventually making the decision to dedicate his life to being a champion for children.
He tells kids a difficult past is no excuse for future failure. “You can’t do anything about the past, but you can do something with it,” he told the children. “You can turn your pain into power.”
His teaching is simple – you discover your own power by serving others. “The more we do for others, the more awesome things will happen in our own lives because helping other people changes something inside us and makes us better.”
“If we can change the way children view their tough situations, we can empower them to overcome it, and become real heroes in their own communities,” says Buckland who views his work as more than just costumed appearances.
“We seek to inspire and make the world a better place.”