Kim Hone-McMahan

Just like the Cowardly Lion, we all need a little courage — especially when you are a child. Perhaps it’s strength to stand up to a bully, battle illness or start a new school year.

To brighten the lives of children with special needs at Resnik elementary school, a handful of women recently passed out a little courage that ignited squeals and giggles.

As part of their Kids Capes of Courage ministry through the Northampton United Methodist Church, the group presented capes made from fabric and love. Some capes bore butterflies and heart appliques, others sported things like dinosaurs and angel wings.

“Look what I have for you, sweet girl,” an animated Monica Moyer, the school’s PTA president, told one of the children. “This is a cape of courage and you can wear it. … It’s to make you feel good about yourself.”

Some youngsters struck superhero poses when the capes were placed on their backs. It was such an honor for me to watch shy children transform into brave, self-confident girls and boys.

Moyer, who helps with the capes, is the daughter of Debby Rowland, who founded Kids Capes of Courage in the Akron area. In 2013, Rowland was watching a segment on the Today show that featured a woman who had started a similar program in Seattle.

“God spoke to me. I get so much joy out of giving them away. I get tears in my eyes and my heart sings,” said Rowland. “I read The Purpose Driven Life and, at the time, I didn’t know what my purpose was. Now I do.”

Since the founding of Kids Capes of Courage two years ago, the group, which includes volunteers who cut, sew and do a multitude of other jobs, has given away 2,000 capes.

“From babies in the NICU to teenagers battling cancer, we want each child to know how brave and strong they are,” said Rowland. “We like to think the capes give the kids or adults courage during a time of need.”

Capes are given to the sick, hurting, in treatment and a multitude of others. They have been given to hospitals, both locally and beyond. And regardless of where a sick child lives, the women vow to send a cape to anyone who wants one.

Tish Rowland, daughter-in-law of the founder, witnessed children receiving the capes for the first time at Resnik.

“It made me very emotional,” she said. “To see the look on their face … you just know they are going to love it.”

How you can help

The Kids Capes of Courage’s advisory board members, which include Debby and Tish Rowland, Moyer, Debbie Helmkamp and Denise Duffy, receive help from many others who are eager to cut, sew or donate materials.

“We have a lot of individuals … and other organizations make capes for us,” explained Debby Rowland. “It’s a blessing.”

Groups are encouraged to set up their own chapters. So far, 14 organizations in eight states have asked for information. The cost to do so is $50, which includes a kit that details how to get started, a sample cape, pattern and more.

If you are interested in receiving more information, give Debby Rowland a call at 330-730-1883 or email kidscapesofcourage@gmail.com.

You can also check out the Kids Capes of Courage website and outstanding video at www.kidscapesofcourage.org.

Thanks to Debby and the others for your capes of love and bravery.

Kim Hone-McMahan can be reached at 330-996-3742 or kmcmahan@thebeaconjournal.com. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kim.honemcmahan1.