HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- It wouldn't occur to most adults to dress up as Batman, but as Bruce Wayne said in the film “Batman Begins,” sometimes people need dramatic examples to shake them out of their apathy.
For nearly a year, the man behind the mask, John Buckland, and his fellow Heroes for Hire have been inspiring thousands of kids at schools and events.
Before dawning the cape and cowl, Buckland worked as a firefighter in Iraq.
"When I came home from Iraq as a firefighter, I was looking for something to do,” Buckland said, “and in the middle of the night it came to me. There'd be nothing better to do than be Batman, and to put something together these kids can draw strength from."
Buckland was sexually abused as a child by a Boy Scout troop leader.
Like Bruce Wayne in the comics, Buckland was robbed of his childhood innocence, and he made his life's mission to inspire good.
Buckland talks with kids about the dangers of drugs and bullying, and the value of doing the right thing.
Last month while at an event in Milton, “Batman” and “Captain America” made headlines around the world after saving a cat from a burning home.
Whitney Spangler lived in the home. She says it’s been quite a story to tell her friends.
"It's pretty neat,” she said. “You tell people and they don't believe it."
Buckland has even brought relatives of the family who lost their home in Milton along on parades the Heroes for Hire have participated in.
Buckland was presented the Hometown Hero award at the Huntington Fire Prevention Parade Monday evening.
"The real heroes are the kids you see here lined up on the street,” he said after receiving the award. "Those are the ones that inspire me to do things for them, so realistically, this Hometown Hero award, I dedicate to all the children I've visited. We're just doing what we're called to do, and we thank you for the support."