By Jennifer Marshall

Glass shattered and little Bobby cowered in the corner of his room. Daddy yelled louder and louder, and tears poured from Bobby’s eyes. Mommy screamed, and Bobby grabbed Buzzy the Bunny squeezing him to his chest.

Daddy was hurting Mommy again, and it was all his fault. He shouldn’t have spilled his red punch on the carpet.

Footsteps boomed down the hall. The Monster was coming. Bobby pushed his small body deeper into the wall as if hoping he could merge into the plaster and disappear forever.

The bedroom door flew open, and The Monster towered over him. Mommy surged forward and grabbed The Monster by the arm. The Monster raised his hand, which was as big as any monster claw, and hit his Mommy knocking her to the floor.

Bobby knew what was coming next; it was his turn. Clinging helplessly to Buzzy, he closed his eyes seconds before impact…. .

According to the CDC: “There were 676,000 victims of child abuse and neglect reported to child protective services (CPS) in 2016.”

The nonprofit organization Childhelp states that: “A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.”

We need a superhero! Thankfully, heroes come in all varieties, and we have one right here in the Valley. He’s Detective Sean Reavie with the Phoenix Police Department, and he’s making a difference in the lives of abused and neglected children. Reavie is a member of the Family Investigations Bureau serving in the Crimes Against Children Unit.

He’s the creator of the program—Superhero September: The Fantastic Fourth—which raises awareness and funds for children who’ve been emotionally, physically and sexually abused and/or are the victims of neglect.

To comprehend how awesome and worthwhile this project is you have to first understand how and why it started back in August 2015.

Reavie and the other detectives in the Crimes Against Children Unit work with Childhelp Children’s Advocacy Center, which falls under the umbrella of Childhelp.

“Kids who come into the Childhelp Center have been listed as victims in police reports,” said Reavie. “Last year, the Center saw 7800 children.”

The Center is designed to be the central stop for all their care.

Forensic nurses and pediatricians examine the kids, which is especially critical if the abuse is sexual, and they collect evidence and take photos.

Meanwhile, a victim’s advocate meets with the family to explain the many mental health services the Center provides including play therapy and immersion therapy.

Next, the kids are taken to a playroom where no one can disturb them. Here, they can have fun with other kids, watch movies and just simply play.

Lastly, the children are interviewed by a forensic interviewer in a open-ended format. So these kids, who’ve already suffered so much, only have to share their story once, it’s audio and video recorded.

“No matter what I did,” said Reavie, “the sad and terrified children that came to see me were still sad and terrified when they left—all because someone took away their right to be a child. I realized I needed to do something to reach these kids while I had them because I didn’t have them for very long.”

Reavie, who’d been bullied in school, reminisced about what had made him happy and given him strength during those difficult childhood days. A self-proclaimed “comic book and superhero nerd,” he knew what his best escapism had been—reading comic books and dreaming of being the next superhero.

In August 2015, Reavie received approval from the Director of Childhelp to hang posters of superheroes in their lobby and place comic books in their bookracks. However, he waited until September to implement these ideas—thus, the creation of Superhero September: The Fantastic Fourth.

One day, Reavie walked past a movie theater where Ant-man and Avengers: Age of Ultron were both showing.

“90 percent of the people,” said Reavie, “were wearing superhero T-shirts, and the kids were playing with action figures. Everyone was happy. What if we gave every kid who came into Childhelp a superhero T-shirt or action figure? Then, they’d be happy when they left.”

Reavie took to social media with his donation request. When he came to work the next morning to a desk piled high with T-shirts and action figures, he knew he was onto something special. He also knew he worked with an amazing group of first responders as many of his fellow officers and firefighters had contributed to the mountain of goodies.

Caught up in his excitement, he decided they should host a superhero event. In just a few short weeks, Reavie and his dedicated helpers planned a live superhero show. Batman, Batwoman, Spider-Man, Captain America and Hulk (courtesy of one of the SWAT members who sprayed his body green) were among some of the acclaimed guests along with visitors from Channel 3.

While this wasn’t a public event, TV coverage spread the word, and people were excited. In fact, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association was so impressed, they wrote him a $500 check to buy more superhero gear.
Before he could go out and shop, a South Phoenix Target manager, who’d seen the TV coverage, contacted the Phoenix Police Department with a generous offer. If Reavie would shop at his Target, he’d give him an additional $250 to spend.

The day before he was to go shopping, Reavie decided it would be a hoot to take Captain America with him. That was the official beginning of the September Superhero Shopping Spree.

This annual September event helps to stock Childhelp for the coming year.

“Last year, we raised $22,000, and it was all gone by about March,” said Reavie. “This year, our goal is to raise $50,000.”

While everything superhero is still the order of the shopping day, they’ve expanded their needs to include diapers, underwear, clothing and shoes because some of the kids come in with nothing.

The four September Superhero Shopping Sprees are scheduled on the following Saturdays: 1, 15, 22 and 29. They’re all held at different stores in the Valley, and they’re all sponsored by different area businesses. These Shopping Sprees are open to the public, and in fact, Reavie encourages Moms and Dads to bring their kids out dressed as their favorite superhero.

“The Super Main Event!” is held on Saturday, September 8 at the Childhelp Center and is considered their flagship affair. This is a festive day for the entire family, and it goes without saying that the party will be full of everyone’s favorite superhero characters.

“The superheroes,” said Reavie, “are all professional costumed actors with movie quality costumes. They’re astonishing to look at because they look like the real person.”

On that, Reavie gives all the credit to Gus Matos and his extraordinary Heroes United Arizona, which is their exclusive supplier of costumed actors. To ensure he can impress a child with the famous heroes he hangs with and knows, Reavie has his photo taken with each one.

In the end, the Superhero September: The Fantastic Fourth program is designed for kids to feel empowered to be strong and heroic—to see themselves as the hero rather than as the victim. What happened to them doesn’t have to define their being or stop them from living a healthy and happy life going forward.

Reavie speaks of hope being stronger than fear, and he witnessed this with a six-year-old sexual assault victim. Curled in the fetal position, she was totally petrified. She wouldn’t talk, and she wouldn’t move—that was until he placed a pink cape and pink cowl on her. Instantly, she jumped up, raised her arms and proclaimed: “I’m a hero, and I’m going to save you all.”

Finally, Reavie was bestowed the honor of “State of Arizona Policeman of the Year” for his ingenuity and all his hard work.

To learn all the details about these events, check out their Facebook page: “Superhero September: The Fantastic Fourth.”