Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about Comicare, and what motivated you to create this organization?
Joe “Zeff” Hyde: Comicare is a non-profit organization founded in 2014. We visit children’s hospitals throughout the southwest and deliver comic books and superhero experiences. Comic professionals, retailers, and enthusiasts from around the world donate comics, and we bring the absolute finest superhero cosplayers in the country to deliver them to these special kids.
To be honest, I was mostly motivated to start this charity out of respect for a good idea. It was about 6 years ago and a friend of mine who spent time in the hospital as a child wanted to donate his comic book collection to kids who were in the same situation he had been in. I realized pretty quickly that this could turn into a really great service. I had a sizeable collection of comics in the past and had wanted to donate them to a worthy charity, but found that one did not exist. I figured that there were many people in the same situation. It just made too much sense to ignore! I realized that delivering comic books to these kids could really brighten their day AND introduce them to the world of comics, a world that they may have otherwise never known. It was also not lost on me that we would be encouraging reading in kids. There are so many other benefits to our service, many that we never could have imagined until we were operating. Actually, superheroes weren’t even a part of the original plan. Once I realized how bringing cosplayers with me could help, I set out to find the right one. I scoped out the local scene and found the best superhero in town, and boy, did I!. I finally convinced Tony Contreras (AZ Tony Stark) to sit down with me to discuss the restructuring and launch of COMICARE. He was as excited as I was at the idea- and we were off and running!
BD: What can you share about the individuals involved with Comicare and their efforts in providing comic books to children in medical facilities?
JH: We have an amazing staff who are all 100% volunteers! You can see them at www.comicare.org/the-team. They have all been very carefully selected to be the most reliable, dedicated, and noble individuals anywhere. Tony is the VP of the organization and handles a lot of the “superhero affairs.” We like to refer to our superhero team as “the Comicare Crusaders.” Many of our crusaders are accomplished adult professionals with strong family lives that enjoy the pure charity work and don’t otherwise cosplay in the community. Others are college students, and young people just beginning life. Most of them are big fans of nerd culture. We keep our group small to make sure everyone gets to participate in a satisfying way and so that we can ensure consistency with our function. They are the real secret to our success. They have all helped build our reputation into what it is today.
BD: What are some of the previous events in which your organization has participated as you continue to promote the work that you do?
JH: We find that our time is best spent visiting kids in the hospital. We work primarily in Arizona and have relationships with nearly every medical center in the area. We also visit hospitals in Nevada and California and are hoping to add Utah and Texas soon. To be honest, we turn down a lot of outside events. There are so many good causes and it is sometimes difficult to decline invitations, but that is one of the secrets of our success. We keep our focus narrow and specific. We try to not deviate from our goal: to brighten the day of hospitalized kids by delivering comic books and superhero experiences. Any outside event, no matter how distinguished, takes us out of the hospital room for a chunk of time. That being said, we HAVE been convinced to do outside events occasionally. They usually are events connected to or organized by the medical facilities we visit. These events allow the general public to come visit with us. We also usually have a presence at are comic book conventions.
BD: How can other individuals get involved with Comicare, and what are a few ways that community members can truly make a difference?
JH: Most of the requests we get are to join our superhero cosplayers, and that is the most difficult position to get! People can always message us on social media or our webpage, but meeting our standards and establishing the necessary relationship with us can be time consuming. We still love to hear from prospective cosplayers. We are always interested in hearing from anyone who is inspired to help by donating their skills with writing, blogging, photo editing, public relations, or anything they think may be helpful.
There are a number of ways that community members can help us. One is by following us on social media and sharing our story with their friends so that if someone needs our service, they know it exists and where to find it. If someone has comic books they want us to deliver on their behalf, they can find instructions on our website. People can also help by making a monetary contribution via our website, or encourage their employer to take on Comicare as a corporate giving partner.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about Comicare?
JH: We are really proud of Comicare. There are so many benefits that our service provides, many that were unexpected. Initially, providing a distraction for a child in a difficult situation, encouraging reading, and promoting comic book culture were our intentions. We learned that many of these kids have siblings that are affected in a profound way, and we try to serve them also. We found that the fantastic staff at these medical facilities enjoys the visits nearly as much as the kids sometimes. It turns out that another benefit of our work is inspiring other people around the world to take up similar work and we mentor them as we can. I like to think that our personal goal is to “change the day.” For many of these kids, going into the hospital is routine. They know that a high fever or blood count signals the need for a trip. They think they know what to expect, losing a weekend or fun days they hoped to spend playing with friends and family. They expect boredom and sadness. We show up and change that day, even if only for a short while. We bring a special experience to remember. As we leave a child’s hospital room on our way to the next, we often hear the family behind us celebrating having a great day. What a change!
It's never easy to trust a charity. We all want to do good things but aren’t sure the best way. We are so thankful to those who choose to make Comicare their charity of choice, and we welcome any others who want to donate. We will make you proud.
If you have a volunteer opportunity or an important cause that could use the assistance of a few geeks, please email the details to barbra (at) fanbasepress (dot) com.