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Johannes the superhero

This superhero fights contamination at work – and at his spare time he helps children battle cancer.

Superheroes – those strong, brave, powerful creatures fighting the bad guys in the comic books. Johannes Wenzell from the village of Getinge in Sweden fell in love with them already when he was a small child. Little did he know that he would become one himself one day.

The willingness to help other people and make them feel happy has always been central for Johannes Wenzell.

“If I can put a smile on someone’s face it boosts me with energy and makes me smile as well”, he says.

In 2007 his father was diagnosed with cancer. Johannes was forced to see his role model turn ill, and got to experience the unpleasant feeling of not being able to do anything about it.

Johannes decided there and then that he wanted to engage somehow. Not only did he want to do something for people who are ill, he also wanted to make the days easier for their loved ones.

A few years later he started to draft ideas for how he could make a difference. Rather quickly his thoughts turned to the superheroes he had always adored so much. What if he could become one?

“Just when I had decided to dress as a superhero and visit hospitals to cheer up children who are ill in cancer I heard about Superheroes against cancer, a Swedish volunteer organization that was already doing exactly this. I contacted them and soon after I was part of the team”, tells Johannes.

Superheroes against cancer visits children’s hospitals to give hope and joy to those who need it the most, they also participate during company events. 20% of the money they get at the events enables them to continue running the organization as volunteers and 80% goes directly into cancer research.

Being 33 years old and still get to play superhero is a dream coming true for Johannes, while at the same time he is able to spread joy. During his first gigs he dressed as Iron Man, but the costume was heavy and way too hard to move around in so after some time he took on the role as Spiderman.

“It made it easier for me to play with the children. After all, that’s why we are there, to light up their days and make them forget, if even for a short period of time, about their illness”, explains Johannes.

The children are thrilled to see their idols, and even if they are sometimes shy in the beginning, the curiosity quickly takes over.

“We encourage them to have fun. Doing high five and taking selfies with us is very popular. They want me to climb on the walls and shoot web too, but I tell them I only use my super powers if I really have to”, Johannes says with a smile.

It’s obvious that he loves doing this, and that he feels passionate about the relief he sees in the parents eyes when their kids are relaxing and playing around, putting their illness on hold.

But there are times when it becomes difficult too. One particularly hard moment was when he was playing with a four-year-old girl who was 100% concentrated on the game but at the same time very ill and didn’t have much time left to live. When it was time for the superheroes to leave and they promised to come back soon again, she snapped back into her hard reality, shook her head and said:

“No Spiderman. I will never see you again”.

Johannes smiles often and much, but he has a deep sadness in his eyes remembering this moment. The team always gathers afterwards to talk the visits trough and support each other.

“It’s hard, you know. I’m glad I’m always wearing a mask during the gigs, so they cannot see that I am sometimes crying inside it. I want the children to associate us with joy. And it fills me with so much happiness when we return to a place and meet the same kids and see that they are actually getting better. Like my dad luckily did”, he says.

The hospital environment is not unfamiliar at all to Johannes, he feels confident chatting to the staff about the Getinge equipment.

“They always get surprised when Spiderman is suddenly standing in the door saying ‘I spend my days building autoclaves, one of the machines you use to sterilize your instruments to prevent contamination’. At Getinge we are passionate about life; at my voluntary work we are truly the same. I love my two jobs and cannot see a better combination”, he says.