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There's a Hero in Each of Us

Susan Notes:

This is excerpted from The Power of Small: Why Little Things Make All the Difference, by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. Read this one aloud to someone. It will bring sunshine to both your days.

There is probably no organization better founded on the power of small than the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Their mantra is simple: there are thousands of critically ill children in America, and each one of them has a wish. And every one of us has the power to help it come true. . . .

Michael Lucco was six years old, struggling with cystic fibrosis. Michael's health problems were considerable, He was in and out of hospitals, often too sick to go to school.. BUt what he yearned to do most, he told his parents, was to help others. And in a little boy's imagination, that meant just one thing: Becoming a superhero.

The Make-A-Wish people went to work creating Michael's chosen alter ego--Bettleboy, sidekick to Michael's all-time superhero, Spider-Man.

A young girl offered to design Bettleboy's sunshine yellow costume with one red glove and one green. Her mother did the sewing. Stu Snodgrass, a young member of the Make-A-Wish staff, agreed to don a leotard and run through town as the villainous Green Goblin. A local TV anchor taped a fake news broadcast with an appeal for Bettleboy's help. The Pittsburgh Zoo, the University of Pittsburgh, and even the mayor's office and sheriff all agreed to play along.

On the appointed morning, Michael looked up from his breakfast in dismay when his usual cartoons were interrupted by an urgent news bulletin. The city was in peril!

"Beetleboy," the anchor implored, "if you can hear me, we need your help!"

His father, Greg Lucco, will never forget how Michael leapt up from the table, pulled on his costume, and dashed out the front door. Waiting in the driveway was a shiny red Volkswagen Beetle, loaned by a local car dealership. A sheriff's escort was also waiting. First stop was the Pittsburgh Zoo, where Michael held up a red glove to stop the kiddie train from running over a beautiful damsel tied to the tracks. The Green Goblin got away, however, and Beetleboy chased him to the university, where the Goblin was threatening to launch "poisonous footballs" at the Pittsburgh Panther mascot. Throngs of university employees, alerted by e-mail, filled the stands to cheer on Beetleboy as he thwarted the villain once again. The school's marching band spilled onto the field to pay musical tribute to Beetleboy, and the football coach came out to personally thank him. Michael beamed, until the JumboTron flashed snnother threat from the Green Goblin, who was going to poison the town's water supply.

At a nearby state park, Beetleboy spotted the Goblin running away from one of the city's most beloved fountains, which was dry. As he raised his green glove, a hidden waterworks employee made the water shoot up again at his command.

Finally, after one last chase through the streets of Pittsburgh--to the applause of dozens of passersby--Beetleboy cornered his nemesis on the steps of city hall, where the Green Goblin was waiting with a box of dynamite. With the help of his dad and some sheriff's deputies, Beetleboy threw a huge net over the villain and watched in satisfaction as the handcuffs were snapped on. Out came the mayor and county sheriff to personally thank Beetleboy and swear him in as the city's official superhero.

And then came the crowning touch: a congratulatory visit by Spider-Man himself, sent from New York by Marvel Comics.

In all, Make-A-Wish officials figure some five hundred people participated, in one way or another, in making Michael's wish come true.

Now in high school, Michael still vividly remembers that magical day. His favorite part? "I really, really enjoyed the thrill of actually helping people and making a difference."

— Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval
The Power of Small: Why Little Things Make All the Difference


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