Our Hero Story
In 2015, Robert Banome and his closest friends dressed as Power Rangers for a Halloween party where they engaged in conversation with a woman whose son had cancer and who said that a visit from the Power Rangers could brighten his day. This idea got the group’s wheels turning about how they could combine their enjoyment for donning costumes with their passion for making children smile. The conversation was brought to two friends of Banome’s who worked at Camp Good Grief, a camp on Staten Island for children who lost their parents or loved ones. They came up with the idea of having the group visit the camp in their Power Rangers costumes. Low and behold, this would be the first visit for the group that would be later called the Humble Heroes.
A few months later, Banome, an FDNY firefighter, was treated for a burn at NY Presbyterian Hospital, Manhattan. He visited the pediatric unit and felt called to lift the spirits of the children he saw. He spoke to staff members at the hospital about his recent visit to Camp
Good Grief. Soon enough, Banome, along with his friends, siblings, and fiance Samantha LaRocca, found themselves making use of their costumes again, surprising children in the pediatric burn unit at NY Presbyterian. The excitement and joy from the children was contagious and spread to the group. They knew this was something they wanted to continue doing. Friends and family members began volunteering their costumes and their time to visit children in need wherever they could. Word about the visits spread through New York and New Jersey. Soon, the group was visiting children at hospitals and special needs schools on a monthly basis. The growing group called themselves The Humble Heroes, with Banome as President, and they knew this was only the beginning.
Shortly after the group’s inception, Banome was introduced to tattoo artist Kenny Restrepo. Restrepo was eager to donate his time and his unmatched artistic talent. After making the group jealous of his own costumes that he created, Restrepo became the costume creator for the Humble Heroes and later, the Vice President for the organization.
The Humble Heroes quickly saw tremendous growth. It seemed like overnight the number of volunteers increased, visits were being requested months in advance, location of visits expanded, and the quality of costumes continued to improve and impress. Camp Good Grief and NY Presbyterian became annual visits, along with St. Peter’s University Children’s Hospital in NJ, St. Jude Children’s Hospital in TN, Night to Shine in FL, and others. With the goal of being an official charity organization, the group sought mentorship from the Carl Bini Fund. They were guided and coached until they were ready to operate smoothly on their own. In 2020, the Humble Heroes of FDNY was legally established as a 100% volunteer based 501(c)(3) charity, an officially affiliated organization of the FDNY.
Excited to be an official charity, the Humble Heroes were ready to spread their cause across more states. But when the world shut down due to COVID19, they had to redirect their efforts. Since the volunteers could not continue their school and hospital visits, they organized drive-by parades in different neighborhoods around Staten Island to promote optimism and a sense of community. The heroes also kept to their mission of lifting kids’ spirits by sending encouraging video messages to children in need and doing virtual hospital visits with the help of amazing nurses and hospital staff.
As the world started opening up again, Humble Heroes Scheduling Manager and middle school teacher Alyssa LaRocca noticed the need for her students to make up for the time they lost socializing and being involved in their community. The Humble Heroes decided to expand their mission to promote and celebrate acts of kindness and volunteerism in young teens. In 2021 they organized the first annual Heart of Humble Heroes Hundred-Day Challenge at Paulo Intermediate School 75. The heroes and the school staff encouraged students to “show their hearts” by volunteering in their community and sharing their experience with their classmates with the promise of scholarship prizes for the students who made the greatest impacts.
The Humble Heroes mission grew out of a small group of friends with Halloween costumes and big hearts. They proudly continue to recruit exceptional volunteers from different backgrounds, different careers and different skill sets. But they all share a common goal of lifting the spirits of children in need and spreading the message of volunteerism…all while dressed as the world’s most famous superheroes. The Humble Heroes mantra is clear: Anyone can be Someone’s Hero.