All About Oliver

A Sanfilippo Story by Grammy L…



Lisa Kollins launched the Superhero Project in 2016. She interviews children with challenges to learn about their inner superhero qualities, then connects with professional artists across the world to bring the character to life.

The Project began when Kollins volunteered as a program specialist at Camp Sunrise, a former camp for children who were affected by HIV and AIDS, near Cincinnati, Ohio. In 2015 she asked all the children to describe what their superhero alter-egos would be like. She then arranged for artists to draw quick sketches and presented the children with depictions of their superhero characters in a slide show at the end of the camp.

Within 20 seconds I was weeping, half the counselors were crying, and the kids were just going nuts. I had stumbled into something more powerful than I could imagine.

Lisa Kollins

…Too powerful to be a one-time thing… (

So Kollins spent a year developing a plan for her Superhero Project transforming children into superheroes with vibrant posters created by artists from around the world. And she does all this in her spare time. By day she is an administrator at the Social Justice Institute at Case Western University. (

It’s important, I think, to recognize that every kid deserves to see themselves reflected or depicted in a positive way. People are marginalized in our society for a lot of reasons—for race, for disability, for illness, for class, for education—and it’s really wonderful to have the opportunity to create these characters that really reflect the spirit and the soul of the kids I meet. It’s an honor and a privilege that these families allow me into what, for some of them, are the worst moments of their lives. I know some of the kids that we’ve interviewed have passed away after our interview. It’s a privilege to walk with these families for a short time and to bring some joy into a really difficult time.

Lisa Kollins

Oliver’s mom saw Will Byers’ superhero picture posted on his Sanfilippo Facebook Page, Willpower. His mom, Valerie, encouraged other families to reach out to the Superhero Project, so, Jen did.

And Lisa quickly responded and set up a time to talk with Jen on the phone to learn about all the wonderful qualities that make Oliver a bonafide hero. Jen described his love of books, getting kids their water bottles as they left preschool for the day, giving big hugs, his love for Larabars, Paw Patrol, his love for his little sister, his big smile, his enjoyment of being chased, playing at the playground, going down the slide, snuggling, giving Eskimo kisses, how he loves the letters of the alphabet, knows everyone’s names and who belongs with who… well, he is just a bundle of love! Jen sent Lisa some photos as well. They decided that his superhero name would be ‘Captain Hugs’, originally coined by his teachers at Christ Lutheran Preschool for a similar project…

Lisa composed the story of Captain Hugs and Ana Gusson drew the superhero poster:

A kind soul, a silly spirit and a tough-as-nails attitude — Captain Hugs has it all! This brave superhero inspires people with his strength and courage. He works every day to make the world better for other kids, whether he’s beaming his beautiful smile, sharing story books or helping find a cure for Sanfilippo Syndrome. Captain Hugs flies through the air, powered by his determination and a never ending supply of LARABARS. He passes them out to whoever needs an extra energy boost, along with one of his famous hugs. Nothing makes Captain Hugs happier than making other people smile and rooting for them when they’re being funny. Truly his joy and sweetness are a gift to the world!

written by Lisa Kollins, designed by Ana Gusson, inspired by Oliver (age 5)

One thought on “All About Oliver

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.