Superheroes for Hospice

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  • In the short time between the point when my father lost his fight with cancer and his eventual death, he was left in agonizing, wasting pain. Those difficult weeks, both for him and my family, were mitigated by the care and compassion of a hospice center. When, several months later, I heard about a fundraising drive that involved selling comic books for the benefit of hospice, I donated my entire collection – all sixteen longboxes.

    The fundraising program is called Superheroes for Hospice and it continues to benefit the Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center in West Orange, New Jersey. Spiro Ballas, who heads up the program (and just took a couple more boxes of comics off my hands), was kind enough to chat with us ahead of his big comic book sale this weekend – go out, buy some comics and support a very good cause!

    Unwinnable: So let’s cover the basics: what do you do?

    Spiro Ballas: I am the volunteer coordinator for Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center, formerly known as Saint Barnabas Hospice and Palliative Care Center. I am paid to recruit, train and support our patients and agency with volunteers.

    Unwinnable: So how did Superheroes for Hospice come about?

    S.B.: Since I ask people to volunteer their time, I believe that I should do some volunteer work, too. And since fundraising is always needed (the cost of care is often more then reimbursement) and we also happen to be N.J.’s leader in providing hospice care to those who have no ability to pay, I have donated my time to fundraising projects.

    Then my sister sold the house we grew up in, which meant I had to store the comics from my childhood. Some of them I wanted to keep, but many I didn’t. As I was thinking about how to get rid of them, I happened to hear the radio commercial for 1-800-Kars-4-Kids and thought, “If people donate cars, why not comics?” I couldn’t be the only one who didn’t want to do the eBay thing and I didn’t want to sell them to a dealer either, for a fraction of what they are worth. All of that kind of helped me start Superheroes for Hospice. That was very late 2008, and by 2009, the project was announced to our community.

    Unwinnable: What kind of response has the comic program gotten?

    S.B.: Superheroes for Hospice has raised just over $15,000 to date. When I promote the project at area conventions, people really like the idea. And we’ve been blessed with many donors who like the idea that their comics are helping a great cause…and that they get a tax-deduction for being nice. [Editor’s Note: here is how it works – you call up Spiro, he comes and gets your comics, sorts them and rates them according to the Overstreet guide. He then sends you an itemized letter for the entire value of your donation, which you can then include in your federal income taxes as a charitable donation and a tidy deduction.]

    ———

    The sale is Saturday, December 3, 2011, from 10am to 5pm, at the Barnabas Health Corporate Office, 95 Old Short Hills Road, West Orange, NJ 07052. Admission is free! There will be tons of comic books, many graphic novels, a few toys and artwork for sale.

    Guests: Rick Parker (artist, Beavis and Butt-Head), Paul Castiglia (Archie), Tom Hall (R-13, KING!), Steve Mannion (Fearless Dawn), artist Nick Mockoviak, Shane Moore of Electro-Magnetic Press, Chris .R. Notarile (The Protector), Chris Rubiano of Inkbot.net, Dave Ryan (War of the Independents), Erica Schultz (M3) and writer Don E. Smith Jr.

    For more information or to make a donation, please contact Spiro Ballas at 973-322-4866 or SBallas@BarnabasHealth.org

    You can support this effort by buying the comics at our sales, by donating comics and related items (graphic novels, unopened toys, artwork and statues), by being a volunteer to sort comics and help at our shows and by spreading the word of our project in any way that makes sense to you. Every bit helps!

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