Thursday Pick Me Up: Bringing Light to Terminally Ill Children

Ricky Mena fights through PTSD while visiting children with fatal illnesses.

June 7, 2018

Ricky Mena was an aspiring musician, gaining success, in California...and was unfulfilled.

He tried moving to Philadelphia with a girlfriend, intent on a "normal" life, but the relationship ended, and he found himself adrift.

Then, in october of 2013, his grandmother passed away.  They had been very close, and he found himself utterly broken after her passing.

But everything changed in June of 2014.

He had moved back to California, and was attempting a career in personal fitness, working towards a certification as a trainer with the financial support of some very good friends.  It was there that he had a dream...or, as he puts it, his grandmother came to him as he was sleeping.  He saw a superhero...Spiderman, in fact...showering presents upon hospitals, received joyfully by children hooked up to IVs.  He woke up, still on a friend's couch, still with no money, but determined to bring that dream to fruition.  It was a calling...and he answered.

Finding a Spiderman costume proved difficult, as one worth its salt runs in the area of $3,000.  However, Ricky's noble purpose knocked the price down to $1,400 thanks to a generous costume designer, and his very good friends stepped up again, helping him to buy the suit.  

Of course, in the beginning, most hospitals understandably were wary of an individual coming into the hospital to visit strange children, particularly one with no early childhood experience and also dressed as a spider.  (Can you just imagine the HIPAA paperwork???)

But he finally connected with a child at Oakland's Children Hospital, the godson of a fitness client whose parents consented to the visit.  So Ricky donned the suit, visited the child, and watched his life change in light of the joy he brought that patient.

Ricky has visited over 10,000 children around the world over the past four years.  He developed a nonprofit, Heart of a Hero, and devoted himself to the pursuit.  However, he couldn't have anticipated the sadness, tragedy, and despair which would naturally accompany being in the presence of children as they take their last breaths, as happened time and time again.  It wore on his soul.

Ricky was eventually diagnosed with PTSD, and opted to take a break from his work to heal.  He revealed his condition to his followers via a videon on Facebook, and faced the arduous process of self-care and therapy which eventually would help him to be at peace.

Today, Ricky is back at it, being Spiderman, visiting sick children, but also advocating, as a PTSD survivor.  His nonprofit is flourishing, and so, finally, is he.  

For this Thursday Pick Me Up, we hope Ricky's story inspires you to spread a little love today...there are such injustices and tragedies in the world, we could all use a little bit of the light that Ricky spreads.  Or should we say Peter Parker?