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Super Friends

Colorful incarnations of the human soul, the charity cosplay group DC Marvel League delivers rewarding and heartwarming experiences one heroic adventure at a time.

Rob Harmon
Valerie Grant
September 29, 2017

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, once said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

Any member of the DC Marvel League in Tulsa would tell you they’ve found just that.

The nonprofit charity organization is doing great work in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Arkansas, Missouri and other parts of the Midwest. Suiting up as Captain America, Batman or Wonder Woman, to name a few, these heroes visit children in hospitals, support charity runs, show up at schools, and attend fundraising events to encourage the sick and those who need their spirits lifted.

Don Alam, one of the organization’s cofounders, says that since the cosplay troop began in early 2015, it has been a force for those who are most in need.

“The basis of our charity was built on putting others who are less fortunate than ourselves and needing a smile ahead of our own challenges,” he says. “We want to give children a glimpse of joy and to find pride in what we normally take for granted. From hospital visits, to cancer walks, to Make-A-Wish events, we absolutely love representing our fandom for the children. We strongly feel it gives them a sense of hope and happiness.”

In a world where we are bombarded by bad news and sadness, it is good to find an escape and a level of security with the characters that the group mimics. They also remind us that though superheroes and superpowers may not exist, heroes do, and we are surrounded by them.

As comics and films have shown us, superheroes are not so different from regular people. Take away their abilities to leap tall buildings or move at the speed of light, and they are just like everyone else, struggling to deal with what it is like to fight little battles in our daily lives.

Members of the DC Marvel League supported Walgreens' Red Nose Day. (Photo: DC Marvel League)
Members of the DC Marvel League supported Walgreens' Red Nose Day. (Photo: DC Marvel League)

And it’s a fight that many in Green Country can relate to. Other founding members of the DC Marvel League, Ashley and Andrew Parrish, have seen the number of members grow, as they combine the love of cosplay with the desire to provide people with a new hope while helping lower anxiety in patients and providing something positive to focus on.

“When we first started, we had around 30 [cosplayers] and now we have over a 100,” says Ashley Parrish.

“We have fun doing this,” says Andrew Parrish. “Any charity event, we welcome.”

Two other active members are Yulia Garland and Kathleen McDonald. Garland joined DC Marvel in May 2016, and McDonald joined soon after, around the time of a Walgreens’ Red Nose Day. Red Nose Day was developed to raise awareness and money to help children in the U.S. and overseas living in poverty.

“It’s been a lot of fun doing all the charity events and hanging out with the children,” says McDonald. “If I had it my way, I would be doing charity work full time. That would be my dream. Before I moved here, I was actually in the process of joining the Peace Corps. But when my grandfather got sick, I moved back.

“He died that year, and I found the DC Marvel League, so it helped me fill that part of me that I wanted to get out in the world. It just makes me happy to help other people. In college, I was very involved in charity work. It’s something that I have to do to be happy.”

For Garland, taking charge and helping people — two musts for any great hero — was in her DNA. So is taking solace in knowing visits and meeting children can provide light during some dark times. To give children a few minutes of joy and happiness, despite their situations, is something amazing to experience.

“When I was super young, I loved to lead people,” she says. “I was in charge of a lot of things in school and was elected to be president of school. So, I’ve always been organizing massive events.

“As I started growing up, I realized that I really liked helping people. I’ve been helping firemen and police officers, doing social work and stuff like that. I had a pretty rough life when I was young, so I think that’s triggering me to want to help people. I know how crappy life can get. At least I can bring a smile to somebody’s face.”

Issues she dealt with as a child also spurred McDonald to lend a helping hand as an adult, providing what she hopes are lasting connections with children and their families.

“I suffered from anorexia for many, many years,” says McDonald. “I was able to go to middle schools, high schools, college classes at my school and talk about my experience, what I went through, and being able to hopefully help other people. That was probably the best experience I’ve ever had by sharing my story, and that just plays into how I like to help people.”

And while talks can provide life-changing experiences, sometimes it’s the littlest gestures that can sometimes provide smiles for many.

“We had an event, and there were so many people there,” says Garland. “There was this family, and you could see they were kind of dressed poorly, and they had two children with them. The children were like, ‘Dad, can we go?’ And the dad was like ‘No, we can’t afford to take a picture with them.’ They thought they’d have to pay. I heard it, and I asked if they wanted to take a picture. The father declined, thinking there was a cost. When I let him know there wasn’t, he let the children take the photos. Small things like that I think is what’s driving me to do what I do.”

Taking part in over 50 events per year, DC Marvel is one busy group of caped crusaders. One of their favorite events they’ve made an alliance with is the CAN (Child Abuse Network) Superhero Challenge, an event that creates awareness and raises funds to provide services to the many children seen at CAN every year.

The next Superhero Challenge is April 8, 2018, at POSTOAK Lodge and Retreat in Tulsa.

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