A Maryland father who rededicated his life to visiting sick children in hospitals by dressing up as Batman has had two of his visits cancelled in wake of the alleged shooting spree that took place at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater on July 20.
Lenny B. Robinson, 48, of Owings Mills, Md., has dressed up in his 40-pound custom-built Dark Knight suit and visited ill and terminally ill children in hospitals in the Baltimore area since 2001.
Robinson said he had made plans to conduct a cross-country "Batman" tour this summer. He planned to pick up the 1966 Batmobile he had commissioned in British Columbia, Canada, and make stops along the way on his drive back home to Maryland.
But in light of the shooting that took place during a screening of the "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo., Robinson said that two hospitals -- the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, Ill. and St. Louis Children's Hospital in St. Louis, Mo. -- called him last minute to cancel his slated appearances planned months ago.
"I don't want to go to places that make people feel uncomfortable, that defeats my whole mission," said Robinson.
"It was very unfortunate timing, but those images were still so fresh," said Jackie Ferman, spokeswoman for St. Louis Children's Hospital, which cancelled Robinson's visit scheduled to take place just three days after the shooting.
Ferman said the hospital weighed the benefits of Robinson's visit, but chose to cancel in order to protect against the risk of not only upsetting patients, but also their parents.
"We had to give our families and our kids some time to breathe," she said.
Ferman said she did not know if Robinson's visit to the hospital would be rescheduled.
The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago released a statement with regard to cancelling Robinson's July 26 appearance.
"The visit of Batman impersonator, Lenny Robinson, was scheduled weeks before the tragic events in Colorado. After consulting with the head of our Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, it was the hospital's decision to reschedule the visit because his coming here is too soon after the shooting and it might be upsetting to some children and families."
But other hospitals decided to stick with their decision to host "Batman."
Robinson said his other scheduled appearances were not called off, despite the two cancellations. He paid visits to both the Children's Hospital of Illinois in Peoria, Ill., and the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent in Indianapolis last week.
Robinson said he plans to appear at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday.
"People will have different feelings about this, but I think that Batman's a hero for a lot of kids and adults," said Donna Trentel, lead coordinator for family and volunteer services at Nationwide Children's Hospital, who helped to arrange Robinson's visit.
Trentel said the hospital took the Aurora shootings into consideration, but maintained their decision to allow Robinson to drop by.
"Just because there may have been an incident with someone being dressed as a clown being a creep, would that mean we would ban all clowns? No," she said." It's kind of a similar thing."
Trentel said that Robinson is scheduled for a one-hour appearance outside the hospital with his new Batmobile, allowing patients and their families decide whether or not they would like to visit with Batman.
Robinson said since the Aurora shooting, he has not been negatively received by children, their families, or the staff members of the hospitals and venues he's visited.
He said he was asked by his Facebook followers to go to Colorado, but felt it was in poor taste.
Robinson said that he was in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, when he heard about the shootings.
"From 4:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., I just sat and watched TV, and it was like 9/11 all over again," he said.
Robinson said he plans to continue to appear as Batman for "many, many years," and hopes to assemble a group of masked heroes, including Aquaman, Spiderman, Superman, and Captain America, to lift the spirits of sick children, as well as speak on topics like bullying and staying in school.
Robinson captured national attention in March when he was pulled over by police while dressed in the full regalia outside of Washington D.C., because the license plate on his black Lamborghini bore the Batman insignia, rather than numbers or letters.
But since he's been pulled over, he said, people have started to realize what his mission was.
"I'm not just some guy driving around on a highway for kicks, I'm doing something," he said.