People are drawn to 7-year-old Gabby Krueger in a way her mom, Kim Sistek, can’t even explain.
Strangers have approached Sistek in the store and said there was just something about Gabby; they just had to come say hi.
“On some level I think she makes people a little more comfortable to approach and ask questions about people with special needs,” Sistek said. “I think that’s the power of her strength: It allows people to take a moment and appreciate the life they have. She has helped me grow into a whole other person I had no idea I could be.”
Gabby has epilepsy and is completely dependent: She cannot talk, walk or eat on her own. But she is a tiny superhero — her superpowers include perseverance, courage and strength — and she has the cape to prove it. A purple number, with a blue letter “G” hand-sewn on by Robyn Rosenberger.
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Rosenberger is the powerhouse behind TinySuperheroes, which makes capes as a form of empowerment for children with illnesses and disabilities. As of Aug. 28, more than 1,700 children in 50 states and 14 countries had received a TinySuperhero cape.
“Our mission is to empower these kids to feel as extraordinary as we see they are,” Rosenberger explained.
Rosenberger, a handful of regular helpers and occasional volunteers make all the capes in Seattle, at the recently opened Magnolia workshop.
The capes, which take about an hour to make, are personalized with the recipient’s first initial and accompanied by an encouraging note.
At the moment, TinySuperheroes, which is in the process of becoming a nonprofit, is on a gofundme campaign to raise $25,000 so Rosenberger can enlist more helpers and to support the cost of all the necessary cape-making materials. They are about one-third of the way to their goal.
The first tiny superhero, Brenna, was born in December 2011 with a rare skin disorder. Rosenberger had been following Brenna’s mom Courtney Westlake’s blog, “Blessed by Brenna,” before she made a superhero cape for her nephew’s second birthday.
After she made capes for her son and dog as well, Rosenberger had the epiphany that while her son, dog and nephew looked pretty cute in their capes, there were other kids — such as Brenna — who needed one. So in January, Rosenberger contacted Westlake via Facebook and sent Brenna a pink cape emblazoned with a yellow “B,” making her the first official tiny superhero.
Rosenberger posted about super Brenna to her blog and requests for capes started trickling, then pouring in. People can nominate others and sponsor capes on the TinySuperheroes website. More than 150 kids are on the waiting list.
“It has been pretty amazing to see that kids of all ages put the cape on and start running around — it is innately built into them that capes can make you fly, which is symbolic of doing things we would only dream of,” Rosenberger said. “A lot of these kids have certain limitations, and every day they are overcoming that, which is what superheroes do.”
Giving kids something physical people associate with being extraordinary makes them feel good, Rosenberger said. Many of them are used to being looked at as different, and she wants that to be because they are extraordinary.
Rosenberger likes to think the kids are being their own superheroes — even if Gabby, like many of the tiny superheroes, is not familiar with Batman or Superman.
“We just tell her when she is wearing it that she is super Gabby and gets to be super special,” Sistek said.
Hannah Leone: 206-464-2299