By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
‘Average guy’ Sean Reavie makes a difference in abused children’s lives
Sean Reavie frequently uses the word “cool.” He says it’s because he’s a “nerd.”
“I was a skinny, pimply kid who was picked on all the time,” Reavie says with a laugh. “I was 6-foot-3 and 100 pounds in school. When I went home, I resonated with Spider-Man, who was a skinny, pimply teenager who was picked on all the time.”
But Reavie is more than a nerd. He’s cool.
A detective with the Phoenix Police Department’s Crimes Against Children Unit, Reavie is devoted to improving the lives of the victims he encounters.
“Somebody once told me, ‘Don’t let the sadness overwhelm you on that unit,’” recalls Reavie, a native of St. Ignace in Michigan’s upper peninsula. “A lot of people go there, and after three months they think it was a mistake. It’s very dark. We see a lot of depravity on the street as a patrol officer. It doesn’t prepare you for what people do to children.
“The physical and sexual abuse is so heinous you can’t believe someone could be human and do that to a little child.”
Reavie wants to be a friendly face for these children who seek assistance at Childhelp Children’s Advocacy Center of Arizona in Phoenix. Opened in 1998, the center is a program of Childhelp, a national nonprofit that serves children and families. Childhelp was founded by Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson in 1959.
As a detective, he catches the abusers, and the parents are pleased, but the children are still hurting. “I quickly started to realize that same terrified, broken child was still sad and broken, even after the perpetrators are caught,” he says. “I wanted to see what else I could do.”
That was in July 2015, when Avengers: Age of Ultron and the first Ant-Man were released. He was at the Harkins in Norterra and saw multiple people donning superhero T-shirts and carrying action figures. “That was a eureka moment,” he says. “I wanted every child to have a toy and a T-shirt.”
The comic books and T-shirts would allow the 8,000 children who walk through the Childhelp doors annually to relax a bit.
“I saw an old poster of Batman. I thought, ‘How cool would it be if we have posters of superheroes on the walls, just to lift their spirits?’ We have a magazine rack, so I found comic books just to change the disposition of these terrified kids. Their back straightens, their eyes light up.
“Adults tend to complicate things. Little kids are simple. They should be kids, but someone stole their right to be little kids, to play, be goofy, pull ponytails and chase frogs.”
Reavie accomplished that mission quickly, thanks to the help of area businesses and colleagues. To replenish his supplies, he regularly holds shopping and community events.
The Walmart Superhero Shopping Spree, sponsored by Paychex, takes place 9 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, September 15, at the Walmart location at 1825 W. Bell Road, Phoenix. Reavie will be joined by Captain America, Wonder Woman, Ant-Man, Thor, Superman, Batman, Black Widow, Black Panther, Dr. Strange, Harley Quinn and others as they shop for action figures and T-shirts.
The Super Main Event, presented by the Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs and Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association, is September 8, with the superheroes arriving at 9 a.m. A kids’ zone, free food, ice cream, live music and specialty cars will be available during the event, held at Childhelp, 2120 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, until noon.
“The event is free,” he says. “I don’t let the heroes be seen by the public until 9 a.m. Captain America comes out with (Phoenix Police sergeant) Vince Lewis. They sing the national anthem as Captain America holds the American flag. The heroes come out two by two.
“We want the community to put on the cape and be a hero to these little kids. If you look at superheroes, they lived tragic lives and they use their powers for good. Bruce Wayne saw his parents killed and became Batman.”
The event will raise money, items and awareness for child abuse. “The 8,000 children are the ones we know about,” Reavie says. “Childhelp is great because the children aren’t going all over the city. It’s the worst day of their lives. Parents are so protective of their children. What do they do? Where do they go? They come to us, the Superhero Team.”
The Shops at Norterra will house North Phoenix Superhero Spectacular donation drive from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, September 22. Presented in partnership with The North Phoenix Community Alliance, the event is hosted by Nathalie & Co. Dancewear and Little Things.
More than 25 superheroes will make an appearance to collect superhero-themed action figures, T-shirts and basic necessities to empower abused children and help their long road to recovery.
The month’s final event is 9 a.m. Saturday, September 29, at Target, 21000 N. Tatum Boulevard, Phoenix. Valley Spinal Care chips in and encourages the public to donate Target gift cards for the cause.
“Handing the kids an action figure changes them,” Reavie says. “Can we solve this problem? Can we make it go away? No. We can educate the community to look for signs and make a difference for kids. Great power comes with great responsibility.
“I want to make a difference for all the kids who come in. Not only has the child been violated, but he or she has an empty belly, lice and dirty clothes. What good is giving an action figure to a child who doesn’t have shoes? We give them the basic necessities, too. This team developed around us. Childhelp is a wonderful partner.”
Reavie knows he’s changing the lives of children one at a time.
“I can’t believe what a difference these gifts make,” he says. “It’s inspiring. It really is. I think it’s my responsibility and the people on my team’s responsibility to take care of them. If we can change the way they feel about themselves, we win.
“I’m just an average guy from Michigan who had an above-average idea and above-average people believed in it.”
For more information, visit facebook.com/superheroseptember/ or call Childhelp at 602-271-4500.