In our sometimes cynical world, you just knew there would be some backlash to one of the year’s best feel-good stories – Batkid.
Five-year-old Miles Scott’s wish to be a superhero stole San Francisco’s heart and became an Internet sensation. More than 20,000 people lined the streets Nov. 15 to see him rescue a damsel in distress, foil a bank robbery by the Riddler and save the Giants mascot from the Penguin.
Batkid blew up on Twitter. Celebrities congratulated him. President Barack Obama gave another shout-out on his visit Monday to San Francisco, where he said there are “no more super villains because Batkid cleaned up the streets.”
It didn’t take long, however, for some to question the cost to taxpayers of the elaborate escapade. Last week came word that the city’s tab was $105,000, mostly for a Civic Center celebration where Mayor Ed Lee presented Miles with a key to the city.
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Others wondered how fair it was for the city and Make-A-Wish Foundation to put so much effort into making one very cute boy’s enormous dream come true, with so many other deserving children with life-threatening illnesses.
Don’t hate me, but those doubts did cross my mind. But I’m less worried now because of something you may have missed.
Miles and his parents are paying forward his good fortune. They have partnered with the San Francisco 49ers Foundation to create the Batkid Fund, with donations split evenly among three groups that helped the family during his three-year battle with leukemia: Make-A-Wish, the Ronald McDonald House and the Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford, Ore. In the first few days, about $1,000 has come in.
“We are eternally grateful and humbled by the outpouring of love and compassion we’ve received since Miles had his wish to be Batkid,” Nick and Natalie Scott said in a statement. “We want to use this moment to draw attention to other parents who are coping with serious illness.”
The Bay Area chapter of Make-A-Wish says 140 children are waiting to have their wishes come true, saying on its website, “Miles is a Superhero, but all of our wish kids are heroes!”
Thanks to Batkid, Make-A-Wish says it has benefited from a spike in donations, offers to volunteer and referrals of children. Founded in 1980, the foundation is a huge enterprise; in 2011-12, the national office and local affiliates reported raising nearly $239 million and spending more than $232 million, including $149 million on wishes. The vast majority of the 14,000 wishes granted last year in the U.S. were done in private, at an average cost of $7,500.
Batkid has raised the bar. While it took eight months of planning and while there’s no competition per se, it wouldn’t be a surprise if a chapter teamed with another major city to try to top San Francisco. “It will stay in the back of everyone’s mind what’s possible,” says national Make-A-Wish spokesman Josh deBerge.
If a child gets to be Spiderkid in New York, that’s great. For me, the happier ending would be that because of Batkid, more children have the joy of less extravagant wishes coming true. That should warm the hearts of even the most cynical among us.