Christopher Barron was a quiet, humble, witty kid, an avid reader and a true-blue friend. He was loyal to the Mets and had a special affection for comic books. His mother, Suzanne, says you could hardly tell when he was undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia, the disease that first struck Christopher at age three. He went into remission twice, but when the disease returned for a third time, it was a new, more aggressive, adult form. After a 3 1/2-month battle, Christopher passed away at the age of nine.
“It’s awful, it’s terrible. It was the worst,” says Suzanne.
After mourning her son’s death, Suzanne wanted to do something for those less fortunate, while celebrating Christopher and his love of comic books. Inspired by the comics his father read to him and his younger brother at bedtime, Christopher started creating his own comics at age eight. He sold his first edition, The Adventures of Ultimate Man, on his front lawn for 50 cents.
In 2009, Suzanne created a foundation in her son’s name to teach comic-book creation to students at School 21, an elementary school in Paterson. The program for fifth-graders initially ran for four weeks; today it has expanded to nine weeks. Alex Simmons, who has written for DC and Archie comics, teaches the class while Suzanne and other volunteers help to facilitate it. Students learn to create plots, structure stories, draw characters and write speech bubbles. More than 500 students have benefited from the workshop, which is aligned with the state’s core curriculum. In 2011, it served as the only in-school enrichment program after budget cuts forced the cancellation of School 21’s art, music and library programs.
The foundation recently donated a library to the school, stocked with comics and books to inspire students of all ages.
“That’s the goal—to inspire the kids, to help them feel confident,” says Suzanne. “The first day they come in and tell us what they can’t do. And by the time the program is finished, they tell us what they can do.”Click here to leave a comment