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  • Renée C. Byer /

    Juan Delgadillo, 11, center, holds a Mjölnir (Thor’s hammer) as Jeff Rogers, dressed as Thor, left, and Juan’s brother Gabriel, 4, look on at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center on Monday July 16, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif. Juan Delgadillo, has medulloblastoma, a brain tumor.

  • Renée C. Byer /

    Jahzara Scott, 8, of Elk Grove, who has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, is shy to greet Steve Martinez dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center on Monday July 16, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif.

  • Renee C. Byer /

    Atlakea Scott, far right, takes a picture of her sons Muziq Scott, 5, left, and Darius Walton, 6, right, posing with Jeff Rogers dressed as Thor at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center on Monday July 16, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif. Muziq Scott has leukemia.

  • Renée C. Byer /

    Steve Martinez, dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, gets a fun reaction from Juan Delgadillo, 11, right, who has medulloblastoma, along with his brother Gabriel, 4, and sister Irene, 12, all of Sacramento, at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center on Monday July 16, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif.

‘Superheroes’ visit kids at UC Davis cancer center

Published: Monday, Jun. 16, 2014 - 2:39 pm

Juan Delgadillo, a shy patient at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center’s pediatric clinic, grinned gleefully as Thor handed him a hammer and pinned a handmade medallion to his shirt, thanking him for his bravery on Monday.

West Coast Avengers, a group of volunteers costumed as superheroes, helped children with cancer create colorful medals to lift the patients’ spirits. The superheroes pinned the medals to the kids’ clothes to congratulate them for being the real heroes. The event was staged in collaboration with the nonprofit Relay For Life of Davis, a component of the American Cancer Society.

Juan, 11, who has a brain tumor, has been a patient of the cancer center for eight years, said his mother, Maria Herrera, 33, of Sacramento. Doing crafts and attending events like this have given him and his family fond memories.

“These are the best memories he has,” she said.

Jeff Rodgers, 35, of Citrus Heights played the role of Thor, the most popular hero among the children Monday.

“Any chance you get to make a kid’s day easier, especially when they’ve already had a tough enough time, I’m all in it,” Rodgers said.

The craft and costume party was planned by Gina von Damm Bogart, 44, of Davis, event chair for Relay For Life of Davis’ planning committee.

She said she decided to contact the West Coast Avengers because she thought superheroes would be the best presenters to award the children with bravery medals.

Von Damm Bogart said she saw positive results from previous arts and crafts events and knew that Relay For Life needed to keep them coming.

“Spreading hope is something that sort of sustains you during these ordeals in your life,” she said. “I myself am a cancer survivor, and for me I learned that maintaining a positive attitude and maintaining my positive spirit was half the battle.”

Special events that include costumed characters make children feel special that someone went out of their way for them, said Tina Schmidt, 49, of Sacramento, a registered nurse at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“It reminds the kids, and the families, that they are still kids,” Schmidt said. “I think it makes them feel good.”

The West Coast Avengers is a regional component of the Avengers Initiative, a national all-volunteer costuming group that does free promotional events and visits children in hospitals, said Bill Romanelli, 44, of Folsom, an Avengers member who dresses as Hawkeye. There are 20 Avengers members in Sacramento.

Romanelli asked seven superheroes to visit the UC Davis cancer patients Monday because it is a cause near to his heart, he said. He was a volunteer for the Mercy Life program several years ago, and he is a father.

“I have a real good connection with what everyone is going through and whatever little spark of happiness like that is worth its weight in gold,” Romanelli said. “Just being able to provide that moment for someone – for the kids themselves and their parents, for someone who probably hasn’t smiled in a while – it’s a big deal.”

Call The Bee’s Katrina Cameron at (916) 321-1231. Follow her on Twitter @katcameron91.

Read more articles by Katrina Cameron

About Healthy Choices

Cynthia CraftCynthia H. Craft began her reporting and editing career in Columbus, Ohio, after graduating from Ohio State University. She worked at a Dallas, Texas, newspaper as an editor, and then at the Los Angeles Times, as an editor and Capitol Bureau correspondent. After working as editor in chief at the California Journal, Craft went to Lima, Peru, for three years as a visiting professor of journalism at Peruana Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas. She was a fellow in 2012 at the National Library for Medicine in Washington, D.C. at the National Institute for Health. She's currently The Sacramento Bee's senior writer on health, a position made possible by a grant from The California Endowment.

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On Twitter: @cynthiahcraft.

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Note: The Healthy Choices blog switched blog platforms in August 2013. All posts after the switch are found here. Older posts are available using the list below.

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