Several costumed superheroes took a break from fighting crime Saturday to visit with youngsters — many of whom were dressed up like them — at the Kyova Mall.
Appearances by Batman, Thor and Captain America highlighted a Kids’ Day program at the mall.
The characters all appeared through Heroes-4-Higher, an organization founded by John Mark Buckland of Huntington, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who now dresses in a highly authentic Batman costume and encourages youngsters to be everyday heroes by always doing their best.
Buckland was accompanied by Ron Stillwell of Greenville, S.C., as Thor and Troy Marcum of Huntington as Captain America.
Pacing back and forth on a stage near the mall’s food court in his Dark Knight regalia, Buckland told youngsters there were four things they needed to do to be heroes:
‰Always do the right thing, “even when nobody’s looking.” He went on to emphasize the most important word in that sentence was “always.”
‰Never give up. “The tougher things get, the better you get,” he said.
‰Help other people. Material possessions are of little consequence in life, he said. “The greatest feeling in the world is when you reach deep in your heart and help someone who’s less fortunate than you.”
‰Never touch drugs. “Notice I didn’t say never use drugs,” he said. “Just don’t even touch the stuff.”
Buckland also talked to the children about the importance of always listening to their teachers, respecting their elders and giving their best at everything they do. He concluded his lecture with a lesson on bullying.
“Bullies are people who need more love,” he said. “If they pick on you, don’t fight back because that makes you a bully, too. Get help from an adult. Treat them with kindness. You don’t solve problems with your fists. You solve them with your head and your heart.”
Following the talk, Buckland, Stilwell and Marcum posed for photos with every youngster who wanted to do so. For each shot, Buckland rased his arms to reveal the massive wings on his costume.
Gieus Workman, 3, of Louisa, may have been a tad young for Buckland’s message to strike a chord with him. But, he seemed to enjoy meeting the Caped Crusader all the same.
“I think he’s a little stunned,” said his father, Anthony Workman.
Workman and the boy’s mother, Aimee Workman, both said the youngster, who was wearing a Batman costume of his own, loved superhero cartoons and was quite excited about getting to meet three of his favorites.
The couple said they decided to bring their son out to the event after reading about it on the mall’s Facebook page.
KENNETH HART can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2654.