Although it’s been a month since Halloween, multicultural specialist Todd Turfe is still anxiously awaiting his new, custom-built Batman costume. Unlike many of those who don costumes in October, he isn’t planning to ring doorbells, visit neighborhood homes or collect candy. He also isn’t planning to fight crime, protect the public or battle any evil supervillains. Instead, much like the hero he will one day emulate, Turfe plans to use his power for good – by volunteering at local childrens’ hospitals and bringing joy to their otherwise not-so-good days.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be a superhero and have kids look up to me,” Turfe said. “Then one day I thought to myself, ‘why not do both?’”
And so he does. Since 2011, Turfe has been dressing up as favorite superhero characters and volunteering his time to visit kids in hospitals all across the metro Detroit area. Most recently, he and St. John’s Providence Children’s Hospital in Detroit partnered to set up bi-weekly superhero visits from Spider-Man, Superman, and soon, Batman. On a typical day, Turfe’s superhero persona meets with 15-20 children, who are suffering from ailments ranging from broken bones to pneumonia and terminal illnesses.
“The reasons that they’re in there are sad and unfortunate, and when they see me, or Spider-Man – it makes it a better experience for the kids and parents,” Turfe said. “When I show up, it helps them escape reality and forget about what they’re dealing with for those 10 minutes. That excitement always stays with them for the rest of the day.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Spider-Man doesn’t turn up empty-handed. He often brings goody bags and other little treats for the kids, but what they like most is having Spiderman give them hugs and sit next to their bed for a little while.
For Turfe, he’s proud to work for a company that not only encourages his volunteerism, but supports it. In fact, after learning about Turfe’s special powers, DTE Energy is helping to get his Batman costume made – a process that takes up to five months.
“I’m thankful that our company advocates for us to do things like this in the community. It’s the little things like this, that can go a long way,” he says emotionally. “I’m grateful and fortunate that I get to give back and get to be what I always wanted to when I was growing up.”
While he may not have X-Ray vision, bionic hearing or even superhuman strength – when Turfe visits those children, no one can deny that he is, in fact, a Superhero.