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North Hills Monthly

Superhero Run Attracts Everyday Heroes to Battle Child Abuse

Feb 26, 2016 05:40PM ● By North Hills Monthly magazine

Photo courtesy Christien Border of Border Studios

By Patty Langer

The wide-eyed little boy stood in awe as Captain America raced past him with a nod of his head, followed closely by Superman, who waved as he sped by. It was an experience that the boy would not soon forget.

While it sounds like a scene straight from a Hollywood movie, this was indeed a real event. Captain America and Superman were participants in the 2015 Pittsburgh Superhero Run at North Park last April. The charity 5K Run, which raises money to fight child abuse, will be held again this year on Saturday, April 23 at 9:45 a.m., and includes a 1K Family Run at 9:30 a.m. and a 5K Walk at 10 a.m. There is a $25 entrance fee ($15 for the 1K) and all proceeds go to CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Allegheny County.

The Superhero Run is the brainchild of Matt Curtin, who established the Superhero Foundation in 2008 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to battling child abuse. According to the foundation’s website, there are approximately 3 million reports of child abuse each year, and four children die every day as a result of abuse. That startling statistic was enough to motivate Curtin, of Austin, TX, to organize a ‘fun run’ in order to raise awareness about the heinous crime and generate funds to defend its victims. 

“Every child needs a hero, but abused children need superheroes.”

In homage to its powerful tagline, race organizers encourage participants to dress as superheroes, thereby promoting the idea that every person possesses the power to help change the world. The ultimate goal of the run is to rid the world of child abuse by igniting a national crusade. Today there are close to 30 cities that host an annual Superhero Run.

The first Pittsburgh Superhero Run was organized by Erica Burg in 2009. In its inaugural year, the race had 200 participants and raised $13,000. By 2015, there were 1,600 participants who raised $70,000 for CASA-Allegheny County.

CASA is an organization that trains volunteers to act as advocates for abused and neglected children. CASA volunteers are assigned to a single family by Children’s Court judges and work in conjunction with staff case managers, who are generally overwhelmed by large caseloads. CASA volunteers meet regularly with abused children and their parents, teachers, caregivers, etc., and their role is to provide information and recommendations to the courts to ensure that the child’s best interests are represented.

Despite its heavy subject matter, the Superhero Run has a festive atmosphere, celebrating the innocence of childhood and the belief that good can prevail over evil. “Being able to change a life for the better is both positive and exciting,” said Burg.

More than 100 second-grade students from the Pine-Richland School District and their families participate in the Superhero Run each year as the culmination of their learning unit on everyday heroes. “The Hero Unit and the Superhero Run are events that students and families look forward to when they come to second grade,” said teacher and runner Todd Murphy, adding that it’s his favorite part of the school year.

The Pittsburgh Superhero Run is a family-friendly event, with activities for kids including balloon art, face painting, and photo-ops with superhero characters. Dr. David Barkovich, dean of academic affairs at North Hills High School, sponsors a group of students who volunteer to run children’s games on race day. The students, members of an extracurricular club called Hilltop Heroes, had been looking for a charity to support in an attempt to not only read about heroes, but become them as well.

“The Superhero Foundation and CASA were a perfect match,” said Barkovich. “Seeing the costumed North Hills students model positive behavior and guide younger children as they engage in superhero feats makes me very proud.”  

How you can help: Anyone can be a superhero and join the crusade to stop child abuse. To participate in the Pittsburgh Superhero Run 2016, visit the Superhero Foundation at