Our adventure begins with our heroes, Chase Hansen and his dad, John. The two attended the FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention when Chase was just four-years-old. They quickly decided they wanted their very own lair in which to become the ultimate superhero duo. The superhero-obsessed comic fans couldn’t have any ordinary clubhouse. They needed 38,000 sq. ft. of space to run and have Nerf battles. More importantly, they needed a place where they could be a force for good, play, learn, create, foster community, and be together.
Starting the Mission
Kid Labs became a space for community connection, classes, experiments, and super fun father-son sleepovers. It was where kids could learn how to code and also run up walls like Spiderman. It was teaching the values and skills necessary to create a league of extraordinary people, like Chase. Although the physical space for Kid Labs, unfortunately, was forced to shut down in 2014, that wasn’t the end of the story for Chase and his dad. The dynamic duo continued to find ways to grow and connect with people within their community.
Chase and his dad had noticed the homeless population in their area and wanted to do something to help. How can we help? Well, ask them, his dad responded. This was the first spark, the lightbulb, the brisk wind under his tiny cape that inspired Chase and his dad to begin their quest of becoming humble vigilantes on a mission. The Hansen men didn’t just want to hand out sandwiches or donate money or canned foods. They wanted to find a sustainable solution to the problem, not just a band aid. Thus, Project Empathy was born.
The Real Hero Is a Friend
The approach was simple: sit down person-to-person over a simple meal and listen. Tap into the mindset of an innocent child and listen without judgment and with only curiosity. It was more than just blindly giving what we think will help. It was asking what they said they needed. As it turns out, what most of them needed was a person to listen to them and connect with. It took courage and raw drive to want to make a real change. To sit down with over 130 homeless individuals, person-to-person, over a meal, and ask them what they need. They discovered in the end, a free meal is always great, but having someone listen to them and hear them was immeasurable.
Chase and his dad have just begun their journey, as they made very clear. It’s not for glory or news headlines but the future of their community and the improvement of the lives of those most at-risk. Chase is now 10 years old and has no plans of slowing down any time soon. His pure motivation and desire to make the world a better place will no doubt make a lasting impact on the world. Chase hopes to grow Project Empathy even more in the future and end homelessness in their city. Kids like Chase have the power to create real change in the world with the right encouragement, environment, and a little bit of superhero magic.
It’s clear that Chase and his dad don’t do this for the headlines or the awards or the glory. They saw a problem that they knew they could solve even if it was one person at a time out of thousands. They’ve collected data and researched and talked to hundreds of people with a simple mission to serve and foster the community. It’s not as easy as putting on gloves and handing out sandwiches but it is as simple as sitting down with a person in need and listening.
► You’ll also like: Do Good Today: One Family’s Mission to Help the Homeless