Residents of Sparwood may have seen a familiar superhero at community events recently. Cloaked in a signature black cape and mask, Batman has been seen giving flowers to residents of Lilac Terrace on Mother’s Day or even stopping in at the local grocery store.
The man behind the mask is Duane Nelson, a Sparwood resident who enjoys making people smile.
“The reason why I do this is mainly because I like to put smiles on people’s faces. What I have been doing is going to the local hospitals and just visiting people,” he said.
Nelson began a campaign called Superhero Smiles, where he goes to local hospitals and retirement homes to visit the residents. In his experience, most people are happy to see Batman in the local communities.
“Most people have been quite receptive to it. Out of your 100, you’re going to have the 90 that are fantastic and the 10 that go, ‘Really?’,” he said. “Most of them have been wonderfully receptive.
“I’ve had grandmothers coming over to me so they could get their pictures taken. They would want to show their grandson who they met today. Everybody knows who Batman is.”
Nelson purchased a specially made Batman suit from the United States in March, and has since ventured out into the public as the superhero. He had support from his employers at Teck’s Elkview mine with the purchase of the suit.
“Here at the Elkview operations, where I work, the mine manager gave me permission to raffle off a day with pay. We raffled it off on site. Everybody that wanted to try and win a day off with pay, they paid $5 and their name went into a hat and if your name got drawn out, you got an extra vacation day,” said Nelson. “That was one of our fundraising events that raised enough money to purchase a suit.”
Nelson admits to being more of a hockey fan than a comic book enthusiast but has a specific reason for being fond of Batman.
“I enjoy him, he’s just a normal guy that does some pretty cool stuff. You think that somebody like me would have rooms full of comic books and posters and collectibles and all that. I’ve got nothing – I’m a hockey guy.”
In the end, Nelson says he does it for the fun and smiles.
“I got the suit just for smiles. A smile is all that is needed. I’m a big believer that when we smile and laugh, our minds take a mini vacation,” he said. “That is why I like going to the hospitals to visit people – kids especially – because you forget about the needles and the chemo and all that kind of junk.”
Nelson has visited the Foothills Hospital in Calgary. His next scheduled appearance will be at Sparwood’s retirement homes to help their residents celebrate Father’s Day.