Every superhero needs a cape, no matter how small. That was Robyn Rosenberger’s thought process as she began sewing superhero capes for kids who are battling powerful villains like cancer, heart defects, autism, and other serious ailments.
Rosenberger is the founder of TinySuperhoes.com, a website that allows people to buy or donate her handmade hero capes to brave kids fighting illness and disability around the world. As of this year, TinySuperheroes has sent more than 10,000 customized, handmade capes to kids in all 50 states and 16 different countries. Rosenberger quit her job at a software company to dedicate her full time to her business, which has, at times, left her family on a lean budget. But helping kids feel powerful, courageous, and strong makes the struggle worth her while.
“If you dig into what theses kids have overcome and survived, they must be superheroes,” Rosenberger says.
Courtesy Robyn Rosenberger
Today Rosenberger employs a small team to help her sew, but in 2012 the superhero project began in her spare time when she sewed two capes as birthday presents for her nephew and son. Soon after, Rosenberger came across a blog post about a little girl named Brenna, who was born with a serious and incredibly rare skin condition called harlequin ichthyosis. Rosenberger contacted the little girl’s parents and decided to send her a superhero cape. Brenna’s parents were awed and grateful for the gesture. “She is truly a remarkable person, and I feel grateful to be a part of her story,” Brenna’s mom wrote on her blog after receiving the cape.
Soon after, TinySuperhoes.com was born. Rosenberger sent 10 other capes to kids she found through the blogosphere, and she embarked on a journey that turned her hobby into a movement aimed at empowering kids. Capes now come in pink, blue, purple, or red, and can be emblazoned with the child’s initials, or one of five cute images: a whale, heart, fish, rocket, or lightening bolt. Each cape costs $35, five of which automatically go toward donating a cape to a child on the waiting list.
Courtesy Robyn Rosenberger
The results have been extraordinary. Take for example, five-year-old Super Jackson. Jackson was born with hypoplastic right heart syndrome, a rare and serious condition in which the right side of the heart is underdeveloped. In just five short years Jackson has already had to undergo two open-heart surgeries, and will still need a heart transplant one day. Rosenberger sent him a royal blue cape with a bright yellow “J” splashed onto the center.
“While he is fighting a huge battle on the inside, you would have no idea if you met him,” she writes on her website. “But there’s no doubt that this extraordinary TinySuperhero has more battles, more adventures, and more opportunities to reveal his TinySuperPowers ahead of him.”
Once these extraordinary kids get their capes, they become part of Rosenberger’s “squad,” a community of individuals who won’t be defined or defeated by their illness or disability.
“When we think of superheroes we think of people who are stronger than normal, and that’s really what these kids are,” says Rosenberger. “The biggest thing they’ve taught me is that you can choose joy in your life.”