By Madison Austin
Apr 23, 2019

A Superhero for Social Change: One Local Scout’s Journey to Lift the Homeless Through Empathy

This week, many of us are planning on rushing to the movie theaters to see Avengers: Endgame or staying home and catching up on or re-watching any number of superhero movies. And while we sit back and watch these larger-than-life heroes on the screen, one young Cub Scout in Sandy, UT is living as a real-life superhero. Meet 9-year-old Chase Hansen. His sincere desire to do good and help those around him makes him very similar to a lot of our favorite on-screen heroes. And, like all superheroes, he even has super powers.

Chase’s Powers

One of Chase’s superpowers is what he calls “Project Empathy.” This project began when Chase and his Dad, John Hansen, started Kid Labs, a social enterprise company that was started when Chase was only four years old. “It’s just sitting down and hearing someone’s story,” Chase explains.

Project Empathy, a non-profit in Utah, and one of the many products of Kid Labs, is a one-on-one sit-down meal with a homeless person and a non-homeless person. Doug Jessop, of ABC4 News interviewed Chase who explained more about Project Empathy: “[It’s] just asking questions. Feeling with and connecting with them. Making them feel welcome. Making them feel like they actually have a place in this world. And making them feel helped and listened to. That’s usually what homeless people want.”

The Origin Story

Many superheroes have tragic backstories or traumatic experiences that shaped their character and serve as their motivation to do good. However, Chase’s motivation stems from something much different — seeing people’s faces light up with happiness when they receive a helping hand.

Chase and his dad, John, both have a passion for helping people. You could call the pair a real Batman and Robin duo, with Chase obviously being the leader and his dad, the trusty sidekick. And like most loyal sidekicks, John looks up to his young son. “You are my hero,” John wrote in a letter to Chase. “You have been my greatest teacher and mentor. I love being your sidekick.”

When Chase was four, he started getting interested in “anything Batman might get interested in.” That’s when the dad and son duo realized that included helping people. John remembers Chase at this age, he “super hero-ed everything” the dad said. Chase began “tapping into his inner warrior with his fierce imagination wherever [they] 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.”

In addition to his love for superheroes, Chase’s inspiration to do good comes from his participation in his local Cub Scout pack. Chase’s dad shared his own feelings on Scouting, “I think it would be a dream for others to know how much I value Scouts. I think about the Scout oath [all the time] and the promises I made long ago.”

It’s not hard to imagine Chase gets a little of his super powers from his dad as the values that Scouting instills mirror the goals of “Project Empathy.” Chase, his Cub pack, and other Scouting friends and family members often illustrate this idea through their actions. For example, last summer the group of Scouts put together a pancake breakfast for the Midvale Road Home. Their purpose: make meaningful connections and practice empathy.

“I think the culture of Scouting is very much needed for kids when they are young,” says Chase’s dad. “It is great to belong to something bigger than ones self.” Chase is the best example of this. Not only in his pack, but in his everyday life, He shows his dad and everyone around him what true empathy means.

“What I like about getting people into housing is just seeing the after look, when they’re in housing, seeing how they feel about it, seeing how happy they are. It’s really nice,” Chase said.

John, Chase’s dad, explains how and why Chase decided he wanted to help the homeless: “We become curious about why the person in front of us is holding up a sign, and then you have Chase [who says] ‘Dad, why are they in a place like this, do they need stuff?’ And so when we start exploring the trajectory and how people might move forward, we can put new ideas into play that might reduce costs and quicken people’s movement forward.”

You can read about superhero Chase’s origin story HERE.

A Hero’s Impact

Chase and his dad have connected with and helped over 130 people suffering from homelessness, people like Justin Ward, who overcame his homelessness and now advocates for the homeless as well.

Chase and his dad plan on continuing to connect with homeless people in Utah and advocate on their behalf. “There are people suffering out there that could use help, so we started with that,” Chase said. And now, that simple first step has changed the way many people in Utah and all over the country treat the homeless.

Learn more about Chase, his dad, and their superhero efforts to lift the homeless through the power of empathy and genuine human connection in the video below.

You, your Scouts, and your family can all be heroes in your own community by learning about how to help the homeless or by contacting your local homeless resource centers like SLC HOST, Rescue Mission Salt Lake, The Road Home, Shelter the Homeless Utah, and more.

Author: Madison Austin | Marketing Specialist, Utah National Parks Council 

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