THE ORIGIN STORY by John Hansen | December 24, 2017
In Sept 2013, my little boy Chase and I attended one of the greatest gatherings of heroes in the world, the FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention, the very first one. It was epic.
Chase was four at the time and like little boys often do, he super hero-ed everything, tapping into his inner warrior with his fierce imagination wherever we went. He was always in “Hero Mode” fighting imaginary bad guys, armed with imaginary gadgets and imaginary weapons being a Force For Good in his world of superhero.
We had spent nearly two years straight together after the sale of a company that I owned. Let’s just say 2009 was a rough time on many small business and real-estate owners. When the global economy fell apart, so did I. Broken and battered from my unraveling and the implosion of my marriage, I decided to take a much needed break from the world, to stay at home and be with my son.
Those two years as a stay-at-home dad were the most magical and transformative years of my life, just the medicine that I needed. Chase and I would adventure everywhere together, exploring and playing. He was the sweetest boy, a constant source of unconditional love and affection, lifting me up from the dark place where I had fallen, anchoring me back into a purpose. He helped me see the world through his eyes, and I began seeing things differently, discovering things alongside him as we would wander. I loved the expressions on his tiny face when he would see new things for the first time.
Every night we spent together we would cuddle up on the couch or build a fort and watch something that he had curated, almost as if he was trying to mentor me with positive lessons through Pixar and Disney, reminding me who I was through heroic stories. I started to feel again.
We soon worked our way up from animation to Power Rangers and then quickly graduated to the “big boy” hero stuff — his favorite movie being Real Steel. We must have watched it a hundred times.
Jayden the Red Power Ranger, Atom the boxing robot, Luke Skywalker, Iron Man, Optimus Prime, Spiderman, Batman, and Captain America soon becoming regulars on his rotation of alter egos to try on.
As a little Jedi Master, he would wield his lightsaber with expertise, using the front room to enact what he saw on our tv, drawing me into fierce battles where we would fight together against foes that were invisible to me. He was the type of little kid who would explore the world in a Spiderman outfit or put it on just to fall asleep, ready to spring into action if needed. “Hero Mode” became the most entertaining way to adventure, so I encouraged it.
FanX fueled by the 40,000 diehard fans served as a catalyst for an idea. We needed our own superhero lair. We both wanted to continue our training together and reasoned if we had a base we could recruit a League of extraordinary people and develop a heroic culture like Avengers or X-Men. We wanted to put our creative ideas into play to serve others and elevate humanity.
After months of searching, we found an abandoned industrial pipe welding shop that had been decimated by a previous tenant. It was in bad shape, but I saw what it could become. I struck a deal with the owners on a handshake and mobilized the Boy Scouts and a few hired guns to start cleaning up the place. Progress was slow, but in time we recruited some amazing volunteers and a few open-minded “hero companies” that rallied behind our vision.
After three months of hard work, just like Arrow and Batman, we had a lair — our dream office. A maker space where my little boy and I could be together to play, create, and imagine.
We called it Kid Labs.
Since Chase was two, I have been following his lead as he drives ideas and experiences which I make happen, something that I love doing. Following the leader has changed my life, teaching me more than I’d ever imagined. With a lair, we began to think in superhero, taking our game to a whole other level.
Most of our heroic adventures, experiments and experiences were kept top secret. I like to tell Chase that Batman doesn’t have a PR team, he operates covertly, in Hero Mode and doesn’t seek out recognition.
In total, we ran 90+ social experiments from our beta lab. We met so many amazing people from all walks of life, even collaborating on a few special projects with champions from the non-profit and business sectors.
I often get asked, “What happened to Kid Labs?”
Most of the time I make up an answer that sounds good, but keep the real answer to myself. In short a volunteer took off with the last of our funds and our working capital went to zero. Short on rent we scrambled to rally help, but without an nonprofit tax ID number, the amazing organizations and foundations we approached about our work, turned us down. Without a “License to Hero,” we were on our own.
Surrendering to the inevitable, I sat Chase down to give him the bad news: we were shutting down his hero facility that we had built together. To help my little son process the flood of emotions, I asked him to do an interview.
We had spent months rebuilding something completely destroyed in a labor of love, turning a dirty and broken building into an amazing laboratory for our hero work. We had accomplished so much and left the neighborhood improved, with the proof of concept and the experience we needed to build a “bigger and better Kid Labs.”
For the last four years since, we having been in stealth mode, figuring out the next phase through intensive research and personal development (r&pd) creating the relationships and strategic partnerships and the infrastructure we will need to create our dream…and we dream big.
CHASEING SUPERHERO is the story about a mission driven little boy from Utah, who seeks to create meaningful change in the world through his social impact work, not unlike any of the heroic characters we celebrate in our greatest stories.
Chase is a leader that has heart.
Help me to help him reboot Kid Labs and to tell his story.
From what I see on the news, the world could use a hero… besides, the greatest stories are the ones that you can be a part of.
Chief Dad Officer — Kid Labs
APRIL, 2ND 2014
[ Closure of Kid Labs imminent. I don’t know how to tell Chase the bad news. He will be disappointed. ]
Happy Birthday. You are now 5.
You are my hero. You have been my greatest teacher and mentor. I love being your sidekick. You awoke something deep inside me the day we first met. Because of you now I see the world so much differently.
The direction of my life has changed in a way I could have never imagined. You rescued me from a dark place from which I had fallen, a place where I felt helpless and lonely.
How could I have resisted the unending love you so willingly gave me through those soft hugs and kisses during all the blissful moments that we shared together.
The “I love you Dad”s and every super hero moment anchored me. The medicine for my soul that I needed to reboot and find a purpose. You believed in me, until I could believe in myself….thank you for that!
Son, I want you to dream big and to know that you can do anything that you set your mind to. There is lots of work yet to be done to improve our world and I worry every day for the future, about the many things that you don’t yet understand. But I have discovered hope in you and in others that are like you, the future leaders and champions that our world needs.
Though you may be young and small, there are many things that you can do to be the change that is needed. In this you are powerful beyond measure. You and those like you, will serve as a catalyst to soften our hearts and help us to remember who we are.
Remember to serve others. Be kind. Be Brave. Think outside the box and be creative. Act with integrity and honor and be the hero that I know you to be… from your lair [Kid Labs] or any other place from which you choose to spread your brilliance and light.
I am so proud of you. I think your story is amazing…someday soon we will have to share it. Never stop CHASING your SUPERHERO.
I Love You…this much! (Arms stretched out wider than you can ever imagine)
Let’s change the world together.