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Richmond group dresses up as Avengers, spreads message of 'the superhero in you'

Richmond group dresses up as Avengers, spreads message of 'the superhero in you'

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The Avengers slapped hands and gave high-fives, amid lots of cheering and clapping, as a very limber Spider-Man hung upside down from a bar in the hall.

On Thursday, Frank Lester — a local comic book superfan who likes to dress up as various characters from the “Avengers” franchise — gathered a dozen friends together to bring the latest film to life for area children.

“We’re out here to today to spread the message: You’re a superhero,” Lester said to a little girl at Woodville Elementary School in Richmond’s East End.

“You’re a superhero,” he said, pointing to her friend. “And you’re a superhero,” he said to a little boy.

Dressed as the superhero Falcon, sporting a red mohawk and donning gray wings, Lester visited several schools and community groups along with friends dressed as Black Panther, Spider-Man and the Scarlet Witch. His nephew was dressed as Rocket Raccoon.

As the local Avengers walked down the hall at Fairfield Elementary School, kids lined up outside their classrooms, straining their necks to catch a glimpse.

“We wanted to go beyond the Comic-Con conventions and get into the community to inspire people,” Lester said.

He introduced Cameron Hilliard, 12, from his group who was dressed as Okoye from “Black Panther.” She wore gold bracelets around her wrists, carried a staff and wore her head shaved, marked with tribal lines. Cameron is a model and a dancer who suffers from alopecia, an illness that causes hair loss.

“She wants to inspire people that despite adversity, she can be anything she wants to be,” Cameron’s mother said.

The group had a jam-packed schedule on Thursday, visiting nearly a dozen spots, including local schools, the Richmond City Justice Center, Meals on Wheels and other community groups. The group was accompanied by a police escort and Richmond Sheriff Antionette Irving.

This weekend, “Avengers: Infinity War” is expected to break box office records. The film brings together all the superheroes from the Marvel Universe — Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Black Widow, Doctor Strange and more, plus the guys from “Guardians of the Galaxy” — making it a superhero movie to the max.

On Thursday night, Richmond’s Avengers staged a splashy presence at the “Avengers” premiere at the Bow Tie Movieland theater in Richmond. A few more costumed Avengers from farther afield, such as an Iron Man from North Carolina, joined the group.

On Friday, they plan to head back into schools and attend the 6 p.m. showing of “Avengers” at Movieland.

“It’s not just about dressing up as your favorite comic book hero,” Lester said. “It’s about changing the way we view ourselves and seeing the superhero in you.”

(804) 649-6151

Twitter: @collcurran

Colleen Curran covers arts and entertainment for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She writes the weekly column Top Five Weekend Events.

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