PITTSBURGH - The Dark Knight visited the new Gotham City on Wednesday, but not to fight crime.
Lenny Robinson, a self-made millionaire from Owings Mills, Md., spent the afternoon in full Batman garb visiting patients and their parents in Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
“I think this is awesome,” said Dawn Green of Duquesne, whose son, Jeremiah Bowens, 3, shouted with glee when he saw Batman park his Batmobile outside the hospital.
“He came to get his eyes checked, and he gets to meet Batman,” she said.
Robinson became an Internet star in March after video of him getting pulled over by police while in full costume hit YouTube. The license plate on his black Lamborghini was the Batman symbol.
He didn’t get a ticket, but he garnered national attention for work he’s done since 2001 visiting sick children in hospitals around Baltimore. Since experiencing national exposure, he’s taken his mission across the country.
He established a foundation called Superheroes for Kids, for which he accepts donations to cover travel costs. The foundation’s nonprofit status is pending. He plans to visit at least 25 hospitals during the next year. He does not charge for appearances.
“It’s always something exciting every time,” he said. “There is always some kid or family that touches me in some way.”
His self-described “obsession” with Batman began with his son, who as a child loved the Caped Crusader. Robinson got his gear, visited one hospital, and it took off from there. Now, he visits two to three hospitals a month equipped with gifts, such as coloring books, crayons, stickers and bracelets.
“Everyone’s spirits are lifted,” he said. “This helps them. That’s what it’s all about.”
In the hospital, surprised children flocked to him as he handed out presents and posed for countless pictures. He signed autographs and the occasional cast.
Then, it was up to the seventh floor, where patients’ eyes widened at the sight of the Caped Crusader cruising the halls.
“This is very nice,” said Christine Patton of West Mifflin, mother of Zane Lightner, 4, who was recovering from pneumonia. “He loves Batman.”
Because Zane was in isolation, Robinson swapped his leather gloves for rubber ones and pulled a hospital mask over his own so he could meet with him.
“That is what it’s all about,” Robinson said as Zane smiled and waved. “It doesn’t get better than what happened here.”
Not just anyone can show up to see patients while in costume. Children’s screens special guests such as Robinson before letting them visit, spokeswoman Andrea Kunicky said.
Robinson made his money through his commercial- cleaning business, which he recently sold. He owns four custom-made Batman costumes, which cost $5,000 apiece. In addition to the Lamborghini, he owns a replica of the car that appeared in the original Batman TV series.
Warner Brothers is aware of Robinson’s efforts and has sent him Batman-related items, said Cindy Tanenbaum, his publicist. Attempts to contact Warner Brothers were not successful on Wednesday afternoon.
Of all the superheroes out there, Robinson chose Batman for his human quality.
“He doesn’t have a superpower,” he said. “Batman is real.”
This article was written by Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE.
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