LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Walking through the halls of a hospital is a man with a heart of a hero. Ricky Mena becomes "Spider-Man" and he visits children battling terminal illnesses.
“They believe against all odds, and to me, that is really beautiful. And any chance that I get to be there and enhance that strength in them is something that I love to be a part of,” Mena said.
However, before he became a superhero Mena was his own villain.
“I let go of something that was lucrative financially and didn’t really know what I was going to do with my life at that time,” Mena said.
Mena moved out west from Philadelphia. He was staying with a friend when his life was about to change forever.
“I fell asleep one night on my friend’s couch because I was at a low point in my life,” Mena said. “I had a dream that my grandmother, who had passed away a few months prior, came to me and basically showed me this movie in the sky of "Spider-Man" visiting kids in the hospital and told me it was me.”
Mena brought that dream to fruition.
In 2014, he started the nonprofit Heart of a Hero. He began visiting children all over the world as "Spider-Man." He brought smiles to their faces.
Krystal, a young girl battling cancer in Sacramento, California, was one of those smiling faces.
“We walked in the room thinking she would want a princess,” Mena remembered. “That was totally not the case. "Spider-Man" was her favorite. She leaped off of the bed into my arms.”
Mena’s work brought him purpose. Yet, all superheroes have a weakness and Mena’s work began to take a toll on his mental health.
“I ended up holding children as they passed away,” Mena said. “Shortly after that, I started to experience symptoms of PTSD, depression and anxiety.”
Mena says he now fights his own battle and sought treatment while still visiting children via video chat. The pandemic forced him to pivot his services and says he knows he’s not alone and offers advice for anyone else struggling with mental health:
“Your whole life is not dictated by today. Just believe and have faith and hope that everything you’re doing makes sense and it will come to fruition and tomorrow can be better,” Mena said.