Window-washing crew makes a Monday ‘super’ for Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital patients

It was just after 10 a.m. and Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital was abuzz with excited shrieks and giggles as children of all ages were celebrating “Superhero Monday.” They waited on the edge of their seats, looking out the window, anxiously asking, “What time is it now, Mommy?” Finally, the much-anticipated superheroes rappelled down the side of the building.

“They’re real! They’re real!” exclaimed one little boy from the lawn below.

“Did you see that?! That’s crazy!” another said with a giggle.

Up on the fourth floor of the Children’s Hospital, children and their families crowded the windows, giving high-fives and fist-bumps to Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and Captain America through the glass. The room was filled with shouts of “I see him…! “Spiderman!” “Batman!” “Whoa!”

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For Chloe, a Hershey resident visiting her brother, Batman was her favorite. “I gave him a fist-bump!” she said with a grin.

Jackson, from Fairfield, Pa., was ecstatic to fist-bump all four of the superheroes. “Fist-bumps are better than high-fives,” he explained. “I gave Spiderman, Batman, Captain America, and Superman all fist-bumps!” As the four superheroes descended to the floors below, Jackson rushed outside with his mom to meet them on the lawn. He even made it back inside in time to see the four rappel down the side of the building for a second time. This time he was ready to snap a picture.

Along with Chloe and Jackson, many other Children’s Hospital patients and their families jumped up and down, applauding as the superheroes landed on the lawn of the Children’s Hospital.

These four superheroes were, in reality, none other than house cleaning people and window washers with Harrisburg-based Northeastern Building Maintenance Systems, Inc. The company has cleaned the exterior windows at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for a number of years, according to Jeff Dove, a maintenance manager at the hospital. “I talked with the contractor after seeing the Spiderman thing done elsewhere…Before we finished talking, we had decided on a whole crew of superheroes for our visit.” Dove continued, “Just imagine a six- or seven-year-old who is having a less-than-perfect day, all of a sudden seeing Spiderman cleaning his window or imagine The Beast from Xmen coming in and using a canister vacuum cleaner on the carpets with an apron on! We thought, ‘that would be totally awesome!’”

To create this awesome, surprise appearance, the Northeastern crew donned full-body Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and Captain America suits before rigging their window-washing gear atop the Children’s Hospital. Bystanders loved the men’s enthusiasm, as they smiled and laughed with the kids, interacting with them through the windows as they rappelled down the side of the Children’s Hospital. The four took picture after picture with the crowd gathered on the lawn before they excitedly ran up to the top of the building to rappel a second time for any children who might have missed their first entrance.

Northeastern was thrilled with the opportunity to bring an extra smile to the Children’s Hospital’s patients and families, said Penn State Hershey Child Life specialist Sarah Miller. From the willingness of Northeastern, to gift card donations for special superhero cakes and cupcakes, to “make-your-own-superhero cape” kits from the Starlight Foundation, the community rallied to help make “Superhero Monday” a reality.

“Superhero Monday” was another example of how the Child Life program at the Children’s Hospital helps children cope through medical play, age-appropriate activities and distraction or relaxation techniques. “Staff throughout the Children’s Hospital were eager to participate…and excitement for the day grew,” Miller said. “The promise of special activities, treats, and guest superhero appearances turned into a day-long ‘Celebrating Our Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital Superheroes’ event’—an event that encouraged and brightened the day for so many of these children and their families.”

Judged by the little girl boasting a Superman t-shirt, the little boy running and “shooting” spider-webs from his wrists, and the grinning parents snapping picture after picture, the morning was a success.

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