Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

May 15, 2013

Batman and friends set for Memory Days

By Joe Lewis - Staff Writer
Journal-Times

May 15, 2013 — The Grayson firefighters’ dinner has become a Memory Days tradition but this year the event offers a unique experience for children in Carter County.

Heroes for Higher, a Huntington-based advocacy group, will be sending three special representatives to speak to kids about the pitfalls of drug use -- Batman, Spider-Man and Captain America.

John Buckland, a career firefighter, was inspired with the idea after returning from duty in Iraq.

“I really believe this idea came from God. I realized that we can’t just tell kids the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong. We have to inspire them to actually want to do what’s right. We do that through an authentic superhero experience,” Buckland said.

Buckland strongly believes that his costumes should be as authentic as possible, so much so that he has spent an estimated $30,000 purchasing specially tailored outfits from licensed costume manufacturers.

“When a child sees Batman, he wants to touch the utility belt to see if it’s real. If it’s plastic or cheap rubber, it can detract from the experience,” said Buckland.

The anti-drug message that Buckland and his team advocate hits close to home in Carter County, where addiction to prescription painkillers and other illegal substances is commonplace.

Buckland believes that Heroes for Higher offers a unique opportunity to reach children at a young age before they fall victim to addiction.

“When children see a superhero in person for the first time, they instantly open up on the inside. It’s in that moment that you can reach in and write on the slate of a child’s heart,” he said.

The firefighters’ dinner will be Friday, May 24, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Third Street Fire Station.

Children are encouraged to wear their favorite superhero outfit. Batman, Spider-Man and Captain America will be on hand from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. to speak to kids and sign autographs.

Joe Lewis can be reached at jlewis@journal-times.com or by telephone at 286-4201.