Comic book heroes lift spirits, fight grime at Children's Hospital
The patients at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh were barely awake Monday morning when the first ropes unfurled from the roof 12 floors up.
But when window washers clad as superheroes rappelled down the brick facades along Penn Avenue and 45th Street in Lawrenceville, little eyes were wide open.
Caleb Whitaker, 6, of Windber raced through a third-floor clinic — and catapulted himself over pint-sized furniture — to ogle Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman as they sprayed and wiped clean the glass panes. Captain America rounded out the comic-book foursome, assembled at no charge, thanks to Allegheny Window Cleaning Inc. of Springdale.
“We heard people yelling: ‘It's Spider-Man!' When the other ones appeared, it was just kind of amazing,” said Joe Hartnett, 42, of Castle Shannon. His rapt daughter Leah, 6, who accompanied her younger brother, “didn't quite believe it” at first.
“It's a wonderful surprise,” said Hartnett, who joined dozens of gawkers inside and outside the hospital. Many posed for photos with the costumed heroes at ground level.
Allegheny Window President Edward Matuizek said the company wanted only to brighten the day for children battling illnesses.
Matuizek said the washers improvised to position their safety harnesses around the costumes.
“This isn't about us. This is about them,” said Matuizek, a father of two teenage daughters. “It's a nice place to work, but emotionally it's a real tough place to work. You go home and pick your own kids up, and there's a lot of gratitude there.”
A similar superhero appearance at a British hospital inspired Matuizek's plan. Allegheny Window Cleaning has washed the windows at the 296-bed UPMC facility since the hospital opened about three years ago, Matuizek said.
The firm's office manager Michelle Matuizek — Edward's wife — first suggested the costume idea.
His initial reaction: “You're crazy. I'm not doing this.”
But Children's Hospital facilities director Elizabeth Munsch helped nudge the plan along, officials said. Allegheny lined up $800 worth of Broadway-quality costume rentals and four experienced window-washers to wear them for about two hours.
The washers are Rick Bollinger, 46, and Mark Errico, 26, both of Harrison; Ed Hetrick, 36, of Springdale; and Jim Zaremba, 43, of Lower Burrell.
“The kids were loving it,” said Errico, suited up as Captain America. “Everywhere we went, they were coming in from different rooms.”
He would do it again in a heartbeat, he said. And he might get the chance: Edward Matuizek said the company is looking to make the appearance an annual gig.
“On a nice day like this, those kids are locked up in there for — who knows? — months,” Errico said.
Quinlan Carney, 4, could get on board with a return engagement. He isn't a patient, but he locked his eyes on Spider-Man as he gripped his mother's hand along 45th Street.
“He's going to talk about this forever,” said his mother, Julia Carney, 37, of Harmony.
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Friends say Baldwin Borough couple in murder-suicide was depressed
- Plum school board asks why tip line was removed from student handbook
- $9M sought to finish turning Penn Circle in Pittsburgh to two-way streets
- Shell, Center water authority reach agreement on relocating water source
- $11M gift from Hillman to help CMU attract faculty, support students
- Lawmaker Doyle seeks EPA leniency for Alcosan plan
- Philadelphia murder suspect nabbed in Braddock
- Canon-McMillan drops U.S. Postal Service from condemnation action
- Authorities identify McKeesport man whose body was found in Yough River
- Roads to close on Pittsburgh’s North Side this weekend
- Panel that oversees Pittsburgh’s finances lacks quorum as deadline to vote on budget nears