On October 31, people often dress in superhero costumes, but Halloween isn’t the only time Greenbrier Valley’s very own Batman dons his cape, masked hood and bat-shaped ears to drive the Batmobile to whatever location children tend to congregate.
On All Hallows’ Eve 2021, Batman and his faithful sidekick, Greenbrier County School Resource Officer Shannon Morris, visited youngsters at Rhema Christian Center to carry a message and deliver copies of “Broken Toy Hero” by John Buckland, aka Batman.
Wonder Woman, also known as, Rhema Preschool Ministry Director LeAnn Montgomery, helped distribute the inspirational story of Phoenix the Toy’s struggle with being mistreated and how she overcame the pain.
The colorfully illustrated book teaches readers “the four steps of greatness and [they] will be inspired to overcome the tough times in life. It will also teach kids to be more sensitive to the struggles of others.”
Batman’s next adventure is a November 15-17 tour of Greenbrier County schools to spread more hope and inspiration.
Morris and Batman recently partnered with the Lewisburg Behavioral Health Center (Rainelle Medical Center) for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. RMC then purchased nearly 1,000 copies of “Broken Toy Hero” to be distributed to 3rd through 5th grade students.
Morris said the plan is to hand out books to every elementary student with the anticipation it would be read and passed along to another child.
Superheroes often build on tragedy and adversity to drive them to become avengers against evil and saviors of the world. According to DC Comics, an 8-year-old Bruce Wayne witnessed the death of his millionaire parents at the hands of a villainous robber. This induced a young Wayne to gather skills, fine-tune his body and create a vehicle equipped for the future role of the crime fighter known as Batman.
The Greenbrier Valley Batman also uses his troubled past to teach children four noble principles: 1) never give up; 2) always do the right thing; 3) help other people; and 4) never be a bully. Points that has the potential to turn youngsters into superheroes in their own right, especially in today’s environment consisting of an epidemic proportion of teen suicide attempts, rampant drug use, bullying and other damaging factors.
Nearing the close of the 2020-21 term, Buckland (Batman) spoke to 8th graders at Eastern Greenbrier Middle School aiming to change their mindsets and challenge them to be better humans heading into high school. He shared his grueling past enduring physical, emotional and sexual abuse, which lead him to addictions, failed relationships, violent crimes and incarceration in a maximum security prison.
Batman is looking to take this message to the high schools. Disputing the belief that young people outgrow the appeal of superheroes at a certain age, he noted that high schoolers often buy tickets and fill the seats for movies in that genre. As with the middle school presentation, Buckland tailors his message to make the most impact on the targeted age group.
“The inspiration of the idea [for Heroes-4-Higher] came to fruition after my return home from Iraq as a firefighter with the department of defense,” Buckland explains. “Upon returning home it seemed the news was saturated with stories of youth in crisis. I was determined to help make a difference in all of the troubles that our youth face in their lives. Issues of bullying, drugs, broken homes, abuse of all types plague our children. These issues are very personal to me, as I was a victim of many of these issues myself growing up.”
Heroes-4-Higher is an organization which began in September 4, 2012. The name is based on the principle that it teaches four points to take the children, the real heroes, to a higher level. The mission of H4H is to inspire children to be the hero. The outreach is active in drug rehab facilities, youth behavioral health programs, foster care systems and grief counseling, churches, schools, college empowerment events, entire community events, the city mission, domestic violence shelters and programs, and anywhere else people need hope. More information can be found at John Buckland – Heroes4higher (get-card.com).
For those experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Both are free and confidential and the person will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in their area.