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Superhero Week at Lurie Children’s Hospital: ‘It’s a dream come true’

Jaheim Whigham, 11, dressed as Captain America, and his father, Michael Whigham, meet Batman as part of the activities of Superhero Week at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. | Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times

Jaheim Whigham has spent the last nine months of his 11 years at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital awaiting a donor heart. Though some days can be stressful for him and his family, he was in high spirits on Tuesday as he sat with Batman during the hospital’s Superhero Week.

“To see him happy and here is a blessing,” said Jaheim’s father, Michael Whigham. “The hospital is always a great place, but today is one of the best because he’s a big superhero fan. That means a lot to me because he’s my superhero and every day is a super day with him.”

In its fifth year, the hospital’s Superhero-themed week continued Tuesday with an appearance from Batman that brought children from 12 days old to 12 years old to the 12th floor of the hospital.

Surrounded by wall decorations of Iron Man and Wonder Woman, Batman’s table was full of fans who colored, talked and took photos with him. Many, including staff members, wore capes, though Jaheim was dressed as Captain America. There was even a superhero dog who wore a pink cape while she bowled with kids.

For Ellen Donovan, one of the organizers of the week’s festivities, Tuesday’s hero visit was an opportunity to acknowledge the “superhero spirit” in all of the patients, and all that they’ve been through.

“No one is coming here because they want to. I think what we witness are incredible abilities to cope,” said Ellen Donovan, a family life coordinator at the hospital. “These kids are very resilient, and we try to help them remember that they’re a child first.”

Many hospitals around the country host their own superhero days. Though it’s unclear who started the trend, the goal — to help children be children for a day — is the same.

Tony Obando, 12, colors with Batman during Superhero Week at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. | Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times

For Sindy Quesada’s 12-year-old son, Tony Obando, the day is a big moment.

“He focuses on being here, and it’s a lot of stress for him,” Quesada said of her son, who has been at the hospital for three years. “This is our first time doing Superhero Week, and he’s so happy. [Batman] is the perfect superhero for him.”

Though Tony said that he prefers Superman, the day provided a break from what can sometimes be a boring daily routine.

“It’s a dream come true,” Tony said.