How much does it take to put a smile on a child’s face? For 25,000 children, it takes 10 years, 50 volunteers, and 50,000 yards of material. It takes 25,000 hours of sewing, bent over, running material through a sewing machine, to make 25,000 capes.
All of these numbers were stitched together by one woman, Barbara Casados, a mother of three. She is Comcast Business’ Marketing Specialist by day, but by night, she is a sewing machine. Barbara may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound nor dodge bullets with magic wrist cuffs, but she tapped into a unique superpower – sewing capes for children who battle more than villains, they battle life threatening illnesses.
This is Barbara’s origin story and how Capes4Heroes was born. The non-profit organization makes personalized capes for children with disabilities and/or life threatening illnesses. Barbara’s inspiration? Her son Maddox.
In 2008, Maddox was two-years-old when he refused to get dressed in the morning. Every day, Barbara tried to come up with creative ways to convince Maddox to get dressed. She realized that letting her son wear a cape brought out the superhero within him. He agreed to get dressed and go to school every morning if he was able to wear his cape. When Maddox’s special needs school noticed the power of his superhero cape, they couldn’t be more excited. They asked Barbara if she would make capes for other special needs students in the school so they could use them to convince the students to get things done.
After the cape making began, Barbara realized that this was the beginning of something huge. She continued to make capes for friends, family, schools, and hospitals. The story behind these capes spread so quickly that she was contacted by the San Francisco 49ers, Vernon Davis, and the San Jose Sharks to help host events for children at local hospitals.
Sharks’ defenseman, Paul Martin, photographed with hospital patient and her mother after receiving her cape.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory from Capes4Heroes?
A: “My favorite memory will always be the first event I ever did at Stanford Ronald McDonald House where we handed out nearly all the capes before this adorable princess who was battling brain cancer walked in. She was just under 2 years old and wanted a cape so bad. She had the most beautiful bald head and frosting all over her face. She had just come back from the hospital with her sister. Since we didn’t have any more capes in her size we gave her a much larger one so that she at least had something. We told her mom we would go home and make her one that night and ship it overnight to her. Her family didn’t care at all, they said the large one was just fine because it brought her a smile and that is all that matters.”
“This family made a huge impact on me, not only that night but every night since then. I did in fact go home and make her a sparkly pink cape and gave it to her the next day, and made her older sister a purple matching one. This was 7 years ago and Audrey is cancer free and her family is just as happy today as they were that day way back then.”
Audrey wearing the cape she received at two years old.
Q: What challenges do you face while working full time and running your own organization at the same time?
A: “I am beyond grateful for the love of my family. My parents and sister are continuously at my house either taking care of my boys, helping to fix things, are jumping in to help me manage Capes4Heroes. With that being said, my biggest challenge is accomplishing everything on my to-do list. Each night I lay down in bed and think about all the things I had hoped to accomplish that day but didn’t. I do realize I can’t do everything on my own which is why I am so lucky to have the most incredible volunteers that keep Capes4Heroes going while I am working at Comcast. I also couldn’t continue keeping Capes4Heroes moving forward without the support from my incredible Comcast family.”
Q: How does someone receive a cape from Capes4Heroes?
A: “Process 1: Nominate a hero on our website (you can nominate any child dealing with a life threatening illness, disability or life struggle to receive a free custom superhero cape). Once that is done, the child automatically gets added to our sponsorship waiting list. For every $30 donation Capes4Heroes receives a child from our waiting list gets a superhero cape shipped to them from their sponsor. In addition to the cape, the child also receives a superhero certificate with the sponsors name on it. The sponsor will receive an email with basic information about the child they are sponsoring such as the age, gender and diagnosis. Many of the families who receive capes post a photo of their child in their cape on the Capes4Heroes Facebook page. We encourage people who have donated money to follow us online and see the incredible photos and testimonials of the children they have brought a smile to. In addition to the child dealing with the illness or disability, the siblings also receive capes.
Process 2: Hospital visit. Individuals/sporting teams/and Corporations will sponsor an entire hospital (150-300 children). This involves Capes4Heroes to pre-make hundreds of capes prior to the event in various sizes, colors, etc. When we are onsite at the hospital our seamstresses set up sewing machines and every single child (including siblings) will get to pick out their favorite cape and a seamstress onsite will sew their initial onto the cape. The corporation or sporting team that has sponsored the event will also be onsite helping the children pick out their favorite cape and helping the Capes4Heroes team get the capes to all the children.”
It’s been ten years since Barbara established Capes4Heroes. Barbara and her volunteers have helped change the lives of over 25,000 children and Barbara’s three sons continue to help her every step of the way.
“As long as there are children who could benefit from the joy and happiness a cape provides them, then we will find the resources to make it happen.”
Comcast is a platinum sponsor of Capes4Heroes, donating at least $10,000 to the organization.
San Jose Sharks players Paul Martin, Chris Tierney, Ben Smith, and former ice hockey player Paul Martin hosting an event with Capes4Heroes.
For more information on Capes4Heroes and how to donate or become a volunteer, visit https://comca.st/2Tcln0Z.