Sublime Superhero


As a nerdy but outgoing college student who learned that “with great power there must also come great responsibility,” Peter Parker made a name for himself, better known to fans as Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man.

The superhero developed a reputation for his friendly manner and helping those in need. Alvernia student Terry Harrington (Class of 2015, Healthcare Science major) can relate. He caught the arachnid bug his junior year and has never looked back. Today, he can be found spinning webs, and smiles, as Spider-Man at hospitals and fundraising events throughout the region, sporting the familiar brilliant blue-and-red ensemble of the superhero and brightening the lives of young children.

Harrington’s spider senses first started tingling last spring when he hatched the idea to cultivate an alter ego as Spider-Man. “I first planned to morph into Spider-Man during the CURESader Club’s annual walk for pediatric cancer, just to make a fun, visual impact,” says Harrington. But fate had other plans for the senior healthcare science major that day and his Spider-Man debut was postponed, only to bloom much brighter in a way never imagined.

Engaged and involved

Getting involved is nothing new for the Dean’s List student, who dabbles in French and Latin. His list of current and past roles shows a history of participation in anything that isn’t bolted to the floor. Currently, he serves as a peer mentor, student financial planning project manager and resident assistant.

In his free time he serves as vice president of both the university Student Science Association and Pre-Health Club, is president of the National Residence Hall Honorary and is an active member of both the Environmental Club and CURESader Club.

And when the poster child for student engagement isn’t involved on campus, he’s out on the town volunteering at The Highlands Center and helping out at St. Joseph’s Medical Hospital.

But the Philadelphia native is most passionate about his time in the famed blue-and-red suit. “It is the single thing I am most proud of,” Harrington says. “I have made so many children and families happy because of the positive and enthusiastic atmosphere that gets created when I show up as Spider-Man.”

PH: Terry HarringtonFriendly neighborhood Spider-Man

It was a role that almost never was. “I felt bad about missing the CURESader walk, so I decided to make up for it by suiting up as Spidey and going to a hospital for a one-time appearance with pediatric patients,” he says.

Unsure about how to make that happen, he approached Alvernia’s Holleran Center for Community Engagement for some ideas. The center referred him to the Reading Hospital, where staff and volunteers just happened to be preparing for the hospital’s annual two-day Garden Party.

Before he knew it, Harrington was on the hook for the doubleheader. “They asked me if I would come over for both days,” Harrington recalled. “I wandered around and talked to people, and it wasn’t just kids. Spider-Man connects with everybody — adults, the mentally disabled and even the elderly.”

After that, Harrington decided to take his one-spider show on the road.

Sometimes he can be found around his home neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia, providing entertainment for young kids and fodder for fun with older kids who challenge him as a superhero. He’s reprised the Spidey role at several other events as well, including pairing up with fellow student Jennifer Bielecki, a fourth-year occupational therapy major who dressed up as Elsa from Disney’s animated film “Frozen.” The two even supported the Team Laney 5K Fashionista Run, aimed at raising money to fight pediatric cancer.

Harrington plans to continue his education and someday hopes to teach at the university level. Until then, he says, “thinking about my time volunteering makes me feel like I am finally giving back to my community and that’s so important for me.”

Peter Parker would be proud.

>> Read more articles in the Winter 2014-15 edition of Alvernia Magazine

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