Whenever Steven Hoff has made a buck, he’s always stashed a little aside. For what exactly, he didn’t always know.
But when the pennies made enough dollars, the New Brighton man would selflessly pick a charity and throw it their way. Even when he was a broke college student at the University of Minnesota, Hoff made a habit of saving for charity.
The 26-year-old wanted to do more with his latest lump sum than write a check. Then he came across a story about a real-life Batman. A Maryland man made famous for donning the Dark Knight’s garb and visiting sick kids in Baltimore hospitals died after being struck by a car.
“It was kind of like a call,” Hoff says. “Something resonated. That’s something I could actually do.”
Hoff was never much of a comic geek, though he once studied for a career in law enforcement. But this could be a way to make his money go a little further.
So he took the $3,000-plus he scrounged from tips waiting tables and freelance videography and started shopping for a Batsuit — and not some junky Halloween holdover. Hoff eventually piecemealed his Hollywood-ready getup with an Etsy cape, an imported sinister cowl, and snagged the main component from a company that makes DC Comics-inspired motorcycle jackets.
He was ready for his crusade.
Instead of chasing down purse-snatchers, Hoff arranged to drop by the St. Paul Children’s Hospital three months ago. His mission: put a smile on the faces of kids who could use the cheer, and hopefully inspire them to do some good in the world, like Batman.
During one of his now-monthly visits, Hoff met a little boy with a serious case of Batman worship. He wanted to help people just like the superhero, but he wasn’t sure how. "I tell him, 'You don’t always need to wear a mask to do something great. Heroes are always people that want to help someone, help out with their communities,'" Hoff recalls. “Watching him soak that in was phenomenal."
Besides his recurring hospital trips, Hoff does fundraisers and charity gigs around town. On Saturday, he and a gang of other superheroes and powerlifters will be at Valley Christian Church in Rosemount for HopeKids, which helps families who have kids with life-threatening medical conditions.
Last month Hoff launched a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the signed posters and cards he gives to the kiddos and further trick out his costume (if a real-life batarang isn’t worth a charitable donation, we don’t know what is). If Hoff strikes crowdfunded gold, he’d love to be able to pull up to the hospital one day riding a custom Batcycle.
But for now he’ll continue his good deeds with humbler resources — a giant heart and a kick-ass utility belt. As much as he enjoys his time with the kids, who freak out having Batman at their bedside, Hoff says he enjoys watching their parents’ reactions just as much.
“They finally get to see their kid smiling, which the kid may not have been able to do for days,” he says. “Seeing that pain taken off of their shoulders, even if it’s just for a couple minutes, is incredibly rewarding.”
Spoken like a true hero.