The CASA Superhero Run has its own origin story

May 28 2015

The CASA Superhero Run has its own origin story

By Steven Olender

"It's a humbling moment when you realize the currency of success isn't currency," explains Matt Curtin. "It's actually the legacy you leave."

Matt counts the creation of the CASA Superhero Run as part of his legacy, his currency of success. Eight years ago, he had an epiphany that even though he enjoyed a rewarding career and a loving family, he needed to do something to help others. He knew the most important lesson he could give his daughters, then four and two, was that "life is about sharing love with other people," but he struggled with finding a cause that he connected with, that he was passionate about.

The answer came to him, as answers often do, in a dream. "What I am passionate about," he thought, "what I care deeply about, is my children." In his dream, he stood in the background feeling powerless seeing two children who had been through abuse. He reasoned with his higher power. There wasn't a way that he, as just one man, could fight for these children. They needed something more. He needed to be something more. From that conversation, the tagline for the Superhero Run was born: Every child needs a hero, but abused children need superheroes.

In a cold sweat, Matt shot out of bed and to his computer, where a manifesto tumbled out of him. A marketer at heart, the way he saw things, child abuse prevention had a public relations problem. In October, everyone can identify the pink ribbon for breast cancer, but April's blue ribbon for child abuse prevention goes unnoticed. As someone who wanted to help, he didn't know what he could do or even what resources existed for kids who had been abused.

The solution he found was a marketing one. What if ten of us dressed up as superheroes, he asked his friend Stephen Schultz, and ran around Town Lake to raise money for abused children? His friend looked across the table at him incredulously. "Okay, you're insane," he said after a few moments' pause. "But keep going."

The two quickly got to work on the first Superhero Run. They decided to crash other people's races in their superhero costumes, which would allow them to raise money, but would also draw attention to their message. That year 30 people ran the Cap10K in costume and raised several thousand dollars for local child abuse charities.

After supporting a variety of charities, he eventually landed on CASA as the way to touch the most lives. "CASA is the first line of defense," he said, and the ability to impact every child in the system means that we can make universal change. Now more than 60 CASA programs across the country have taken on the model of the Superhero Run, either with their own 5Ks or by incorporating the superhero theme into their existing events.

The race has been so successful because it provides an easy entry point to the difficult discussion of child abuse prevention. "There's something you can do," says Matt Curtin. "Something small like donating. Something bigger like running. Something a little bigger like bringing your children to be part of it, to help them understand that they are blessed. And then you can help even a step further by letting these abused children know they are cared for; you can actually become a CASA volunteer."

After 8 years, the most rewarding thing is seeing his daughters participating, being superheroes for other kids. "Every single night since we started this thing, without fail, both my kids, when they say their prayers, end with 'I pray for all the kids who don't have nice mommies and daddies like me.'" That's impactful. That's a powerful legacy to leave.

Registration has just opened! The 2015 CASA Superhero Run will be held Sunday, September 13th at The Domain. Be one of our very first superheroes and sign up yourself and all of your sidekicks today! www.casasuperherorun.com