Joann “Auntie Jojo” Dasent of Cheltenham Township has long served as a proponent of literacy. It wasn’t until she received a phone call from a local 9-year-old that the idea to organize a Superhero Camp came to light.
The fourth grader asked Joann to help her write and illustrate a superhero book. Less than one month later, Superhero Camp became a reality.
“She was the inspiration. Her grandmother and I have had plenty of experiences with workshops and classes at La Mott Community Center,” Joann said. “So, when she asked for help, I thought this might be something that other kids would enjoy.”
Step one was finding a venue. A 2004 graduate of Arcadia University, Joann reached out to her alma mater to see if classroom space would be available. It was.
Step two was finding a talented and experienced illustrator to take ideas from concept to completion. Joann contacted her friend Patrick Harrington, an award-winning live event caricaturist, cartoonist, flash animator, graphic designer, and owner of Harringtoons & Caricamation in Philadelphia.
Step three was finding interest. Joann rounded up 10 students from the area—five of whom came from a single family—and everyone got to work.
“From there we started creating our unique superheroes. One little boy was fascinated with cats, another was very interested in rainbows, and that became the idea for her superhero’s abilities,” Joann said. “I gave the student who had reached out to me a copy of Kevin Hart’s book, Malcom Makes a Movie, which is about a superhero named Toothpick.”
The camp spanned four sessions in August from 10:00am to 12:00pm.
“Patrick gave them starter pages for their comic strip, and then a week after the program, he caricatured the cover of their comic book,” Joann said.
“This camp was about the importance of reading and what you can get out of it,” Joann said. “I’ll be attending a class with the Children’s Academy and we’ll be working on comic strips. From there I will try to help each of those kids get their work published.”
A professional storyteller with a Master’s in the Oral Tradition from The Graduate Institute in Bethany, Connecticut, Joann is also the founder of Regenerating Our Offspring Through Stories (ROOTS, Inc.), a non-profit whose mission is to use the art of storytelling to promote literacy.
“We’ve been active over 10 years. I once held a workshop at Arcadia where I met with three teenagers who came to revise Aesop fables. I had them register with the Library of Congress to protect their ideas. They wrote a revised version of The Lion and the Mouse, The Tortoise and the Hare, and the Grasshopper and the Ant,” Joann said.
Another ROOTS initiative was Afternoon of Spirituals, which invited senior citizens to Arcadia’s campus to listen to spirituals and hymns, including a luncheon in the castle.
A follow-up Superhero Camp is on Joann’s radar. “I’d most definitely like to do that again. They’re amazing children. That’s all I can really say.”
Interested families can reach out to Joann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I’m most grateful to Patrick Harrington who enthusiastically shared his artistic gifts, including the creation of cartoons, illustrations, caricatures, animation and so much more,” Joann said. “As a final gesture of his commitment and talent, he surprised each one of us, including me, with an individual original caricature, drawn as a superhero writer, for the covers of our comic books. One of the youngest students loved drawing and writing during the workshop and was thrilled when he received his first Marvel likeness.”
“A special thank you goes to Lisa Stephens and the tech department for their untiring support,” Joann said. “Thanks to Jude’s grandmother, Mary, for bringing the treats for the students, and my sister Margaret for being my personal Uber driver. Lastly, my son, Michael, a heartfelt thank you for funding this project for everyone involved.”