‘900 million thumbs up’: Kids at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital get special superhero visitors

SPOKANE, Wash. – Spiderman, Batman, Superman and many other heroes dangled on the side of the Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, saying ‘hello’ and bringing joy to other types of heroes inside.

Day in and day out, 11-year-old Riley Albertson does the same thing as he goes to the hospital for chemotherapy for leukemia. He was diagnosed in February.

“When nothing happens and you’re just in a bed all day, you’re just watching TV and going on walks. It’s pretty boring,” he said.

That wasn’t the case on Wednesday. He and all the other kids staying at the hospital met their favorite superheroes through the window and in a parade through the hospital. This was the first time in two years since Providence was able to do this. COVID didn’t allow extra visitors inside.

“I dreamed about this,” Riley said of meeting the superheroes.

Meanwhile, down the hall from him, seven-year-old Gunner Mahaney saw Batman, Spiderman and Thor rappel down his window. West Coast Window Cleaning, which cleans the hospital’s windows, helps put the event on. Staff dress up in various superhero costumes, rappels down the building, and wave at the kids, as well as do little skits for them.

“Thumbs up. Nine-hundred million thumbs up,” Gunner said of seeing the heroes.

Gunner has been going back and forth between Sacred Heart, the Ronald McDonald House and Moses Lake for his cancer therapy. His mom, Natashia, says he was diagnosed in March with a rare cancer called myoepithelial carcinoma with a certain type of fusion.

“It was good,” Natashia said getting emotional, happy to see her son basking in the moments.

“Don’t cry mom,” Gunner said right after.

Providence’s Superheroes for Kids day not only gives kids like Gunner a little bit of joy but also the staff.

Katie Lowderback, the nurse manager for the NICU and family support services, has been around for this day for the last five years. She says it warms her heart each time.

“It kind of makes it easier in a time that can be really difficult. Our staff sees a lot of hard things, so having a superhero day makes us super happy,” she said.

Money is raised through this effort for the hospital to help kids through the Children’s Miracle Network. Colleen Fox, the chief philanthropy officer for the Providence Inland Northwest Foundation, says the goal for this year’s Superheroes for Kids is $75,000.

It was difficult to raise money for the last few years because of COVID-19. Last year, the hospital raised $25,000. The year before that, it raised $5,000.

“The money we raised through Children’s Miracle Network helps fund everything from cutting edge, expensive state-of-the-art technology to programs like our hospital-based school program that keeps kids engaged academically to simple things like $100 gas cards, so patients can get to and from their appointments,” Fox said.

While people raise money for the hospital to help kids, the payout is immediate: making the kids happy and allowing families to forget – for just a moment – what they’re going through.

“We hope we can give them something to maybe distract them for a little while so their day goes a little bit better,” said Eric Katzer, the president of the West Coast Window Cleaning.

“It was pretty cool. I knew they were going to come in, but when they came in, like, I’m pretty sure I was holding my breath half the time,” Riley added.

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