Donning their tiny green capes, the preschool-aged Superheroes of University Baptist Church had a long day ahead of them.
Their mission: to thank a group of firefighters who risk life and limb to protect the lives and property of Baton Rouge.
The Superheroes of Service program at University Baptist promotes the Christian value of service to the church’s young congregants.
Once a month, they meet to craft a gift of some kind for people in the community, then, wearing their capes, they brighten someone’s day.
“I just feel like it’s a good thing for the church to educate and support the community,” said Shari Halpin, 31, whose 3-year-old daughter Anna Claire Halpin attends the monthly activity. “It teaches them in a tactile way that isn’t often present in traditional school.”
Last month, the Superheroes spent the morning learning about fire and making treats for their local Baton Rouge Fire Department station. In a classroom at University Baptist, they walked along educational stations where they learned to use a fire extinguisher and dial 911 in an emergency.
And each child took turns spreading whipped marshmallow and chocolate spread on graham crackers to make a batch of “fire safety” no-flame s’mores for the firefighters a few streets away at Station No. 10 on Menlo Drive.
The Superheroes program aligns with the church’s focus on missions, said Deborah McElgin, the children’s ministry coordinator for University Baptist.
They are teaching kids as young as 2 to serve others.
“In this age group their understanding is limited,” McElgin said. “In my mind, if we can teach them to walk in the way of Jesus at this age, they will continue to walk in the way of Jesus. It’s leading that Christ-like life, not just coming and listening to the stories, but putting the stories into action.”
That lesson about the Christian virtue of service can be taught to anyone, but McElgin said the 2- to 6-year-old group really embraces the idea of wearing a cape and buzzing around town.
“With the superheroes theme, those are the kids who love putting on a cape,” she said. “That’s part of the fun. They feel like they are superheroes. They get excited about putting on the cape and going out and doing something kind.”
Once they completed the treats for the firefighters, the Superheroes traced their hands onto a big yellow banner that read “Helping Hands Say Thanks to Helping Hands That Save.”
Then they sat cross-legged on the floor for storytime.
McElgin read two firefighter-themed books to the little Superheroes. In them, the firefighters save the lives of animals and people while rescuing homes and businesses from damage.
One book ended with a parade, which helped McElgin to make a prescient point to the preschoolers.
“In real life, there is not a parade every day for the firemen,” she told them.
Flying off with their fire safety s’mores in hand, the Superheroes raced to the fire station a few miles away.
When they arrived, they unfurled the banner they had made earlier, then they took a tour of the trucks, climbing through the cab and checking out all the different compartments where the tools and hoses are stored.
Halpin ran back toward her mother and shouted, “Do you like the fire truck? It’s so awesome!”
The Superheroes tried on the firefighters’ helmets and took turns holding the nozzle of a fire hose, bringing a smile to the face of the station’s captain, 1Thomas Chandler.
“It gives them an opportunity to see what we do every day,” Chandler said. “It’s an opportunity for them to learn. It might be something they want to do someday.”
Then the Superheroes gathered in the fire station’s kitchen to hand out the s’mores before eating a lunch of chicken fingers and fries — and taking a much-deserved nap.