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Superhero window washers return to Children's Hospital

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By Adam Smeltz
Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 2:15 p.m.
 

Like a high-flying sequel to a big-screen blockbuster, window washers doubling as superheroes made a dramatic return on Wednesday to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

This time, they had company.

Trailed by news crews, photographers and hospital media gurus, the foursome from Allegheny Window Cleaning Inc. of Springdale brought newfound celebrity to their rounds at Penn Avenue and 45th Street in Lawrenceville. More than a half-dozen other children's hospitals across the country have adopted the idea since Allegheny Window workers suited up last fall as Batman, Captain America, Spider-Man and Superman.

“I duck the spotlight. I say as little as I can. But this has been overwhelming with what's happened on the Internet,” company President Edward Matuizek said. “We probably were in 20 newspapers worldwide. It continues to fuel itself.”

For Naomi Kurzweg, 10, of Squirrel Hill, the surprise appearances lightened an appointment for blood work.

“I think my favorite was Spider-Man,” she said, grinning at the superheroes' choice of footwear: sneakers.

Matuizek's wife and company office manager Michelle Matuizek saw a similar appearance at a British hospital and suggested the costumes. With a blessing from Children's Hospital, workers Rick Bollinger, 46, and Mark Errico, 26, both from Natrona Heights, Ed Hetrick, 36, of Springdale and Jim Zaremba, 45, of New Kensington morphed into comic-book alter egos to wash windows for two hours on Oct. 22.

They expected to do it again this fall but bumped up the appearance because of a request from the 296-bed UPMC facility. Their four-hour session was better coordinated this time, reaching more banks of windows and more young patients. Organizers plan to make the visit a twice-yearly event.

“If the windows have to be washed, it might as well be done by superheroes,” said Naomi's mother, Anne Kurzweg, 42.

Tribune-Review photos from October drew a following of thousands through social media. Michelle Matuizek said the company received around 200 thank-you email messages from around the world.

An observer from Crybaby Media, a New York reality-TV firm, mingled with local journalists to watch the characters rappel from a 12th-floor roof.

“It's about the kids and giving the kids an environment where their health and welfare is the focus, but not just from a medical perspective,” Children's facilities director Liz Munsch said. “It gives them something else to enjoy and make it feel less like a hospital.”

Katrina Koenig, 9, of Apollo darted among the windows, taking photos with an iPod as Batman dangled outside with a squeegee.

“It's really fun,” she said.

“Too bad we couldn't get his autograph on our doctor's excuse,” said her mother, Shawne Koenig, 41.

Adam Smeltz is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676 or asmeltz@tribweb.com.

James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Mark Erico as Captain America a window washer from Allegheny WIndow Cleaning cleans the windows on the third floor as Dorian Haigh, 5 of Churchill (left) and Martiese Davis, 11 of Wilkinsburg look on at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville Wednesday April 17, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review</em></div>Mark Erico as Captain America a window washer from Allegheny WIndow Cleaning cleans the windows on the third floor as Dorian Haigh, 5 of Churchill (left) and Martiese Davis, 11 of Wilkinsburg look on at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville Wednesday April 17, 2013.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Window washers from Allegheny Window Cleaning dressed as superheroes pose together before scaling the side of Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville on Wednesday April 17, 2013. The crew is from left, Ed Hetrick as Superman, Mark Errico as Captain America, Jim Zaremba as Batman and Rick Bollinger as Spiderman.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review</em></div>Window washers from Allegheny Window Cleaning dressed as superheroes pose together before scaling the side of Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville on Wednesday April 17, 2013. The crew is from left, Ed Hetrick as Superman, Mark Errico as Captain America, Jim Zaremba as Batman and Rick Bollinger as Spiderman.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Window washers from Allegheny Window Cleaning dressed as superheroes scale the side of Children's Hospital in Lawrencevilleon Wednesday April 17, 2013. The crew is from left, Mark Errico as Captain America, Ed Hetrick as Superman and Jim Zaremba as Batman.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review</em></div>Window washers from Allegheny Window Cleaning dressed as superheroes scale the side of Children's Hospital in Lawrencevilleon Wednesday April 17, 2013. The crew is from left, Mark Errico as Captain America, Ed Hetrick as Superman and Jim Zaremba as Batman.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Window washers from Allegheny WIndow Cleaning dressed as superheroes scale the side of Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville on Wednesday April 17, 2013. The crew is from left, Mark Errico as Captain America, Ed Hetrick as Superman, Jim Zaremba as Batman and Rick Bollinger as Spiderman.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review</em></div>Window washers from Allegheny WIndow Cleaning dressed as superheroes scale the side of Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville on Wednesday April 17, 2013. The crew is from left, Mark Errico as Captain America, Ed Hetrick as Superman, Jim Zaremba as Batman and Rick Bollinger as Spiderman.
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