Flying high for kids “fills my heart with joy”




Superheroes unite to bring smiles to Riley patients and families.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer,

Just like Clark Kent in his phone booth, four seemingly ordinary men ducked into a bathroom off the lobby of Simon Family Tower on Friday morning, only to emerge as superheroes.

Spiderman, Ironman, Thor and Hulk were quite the sight as they entered an elevator bound for the roof at Riley Hospital for Children.

Their mission? To leap off the tall building (with ropes attached), dangle in the air and rappel from floor to floor, waving to Riley patients.

Noll Pfenniger, 3, couldn’t believe his eyes when the Marvel superheroes who previously lived only in books and movies, were hanging right outside the playroom of the Heart Center at Riley.

He giggled and squealed as he watched the costumed characters cavort outside the window.

“Look at him! He’s very silly,” the toddler said to his mom, Lydia, who enjoyed the visit nearly as much as her son did.

“This was an unexpected surprise today,” she said. “Now he’ll have something to brag about to his brothers.”

Friday’s superhero appearance coincided with National Superhero Day and was made possible by Valcourt American National Skyline Indiana.

The “hangers,” as they call themselves, included four local window washers, who delight in making kids smile.

Aaron Myers, Larry Green, DaVondre Jackson and Ryan Green said they look forward to the adventure every year. Larry Green even grew out his beard over the past few months to take on the part of Thor.

“We do it for the kids,” Ryan Green said, adding that all of the men have children of their own. “Everyone gets excited. Last year was our first year going out after COVID, so it was the first time the community areas were open for all the kids to get together. That was really special for us. We loved it.”

Jackson, who had to make a last-minute switch to Ironman from Spiderman because he couldn’t see out of Spidey’s mask, was on his first superhero mission down the side of Riley Hospital, but it likely won’t be his last.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing to do,” he said. “It fills my heart with joy. I love kids.”

Four-year-old Lily Beach had a little help from her dad to get up close and personal with Spiderman, her favorite superhero. She watched in wonder and offered a shy wave.

“She watches Spidey every day,” her dad said.

While bigger kids found positions near the playroom windows on each patient floor, nurses and parents held tiny ones as well – babies from 2 weeks to several months old, some who slept through the party.

In one room, Riley nurses (everyday superheroes) gathered to take pictures themselves, grateful for a chance to unwind even for a few minutes.

Kaleigh Biszantz, a nurse on 9 East, enjoyed watching the kids’ faces light up as the characters bopped around outside their window.

“For some of them, it was the first time out of their room, so it really encouraged them to get up and move,” she said.

Friday’s surprise guests may have stolen the show with their high-flying antics, but it is the people who work at Riley every day who are the real heroes, many parents say.

“I’m very appreciative of what Riley does to try to make it fun while we’re here,” Lydia Pfenniger said, as she and her son waved goodbye to the characters. “Hopefully, this is what he’ll remember.”

Photos by Mike Dickbernd and Maureen Gilmer