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Local teen gets in character to hand out school lunches

Who knew Captain America was a food service worker?

Children who come to The Family Center to get their school lunches and breakfasts have been surprised to be greeted by the Marvel Comics superhero or some other action figure.

On another day, it might be Batman, a pirate or Buzz Lightyear from “Toy Story.”

But beneath the masks and costumes, it’s Daniel Rhodes, the 19-year-old son of Tara Hall, who runs the independent nonprofit. It is one of several locations where the Jessamine County School District provides meals for students while they are away from classrooms and cafeterias because of the public health threat of the coronavirus.

The effort to fight the virus has been described as the equivalent of a war, so who better to rally families and lift their spirits than Captain America, the super-soldier created during World War II as a symbol of patriotism and courage?

And while Wilmore is more like Mayberry than Gotham City, who is better to inspire hope in a dark time than the Dark Knight?

“I’m just trying to make the kids’ day a little brighter,” Rhodes said.

Sometimes he gets hot and sweaty in the costumes, but “it’s worth it,” he said.

Hall said because parents are keeping kids at home to keep them safe, going out to get lunch may be the only time during the day they get out of the house or yard, and it’s fun for them to be entertained, if only for a few moments.

For Rhodes, it isn’t only about the costumes. He likes to get into the character he’s playing. He gives an example by describing the pirate as a “swashbuckling buccaneer” in a practiced English accent.

Dressing up in costume is something Rhodes has enjoyed since he was a kid himself. When he was little, he would be Peter from C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” or Batman’s sidekick, Robin. Interestingly, he never dressed up for Halloween because he doesn’t like its pagan origins.

In school, he got involved in theater and liked acting, but he had a challenge that got in the way.

“Unfortunately, my speech impairment would always put me off, so I moved onto stuff like dancing, choreography, the props,” he said.

A few years ago, he started making costumes. He couldn’t sew, so he used “a box cutter and paint.” He doesn’t have many tools in his toolbox, he said, but he makes some impressive costumes with what he has.

Rhodes said he’s inspired by a “Star Wars” cosplay charity group, but it’s expensive to join, so, “I just try to do what they do on a smaller, less known scale.”

He isn’t raising money, but he hopes he’s raising children’s spirits.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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