Odessan’s secret identity cheers sick children

By day, Tim Linder is a parts runner for Morrow Energy, but on weekends mostly he transforms into Batman and Spider-Man to visit children at hospitals in Odessa and elsewhere.
Linder has been portraying the superheroes for about four years. It started when he was about 15 and a neighbor knocked on his door and asked if he would be Spongebob Squarepants to visit a girl who had a brain tumor.
Although Linder said he was dressed in a Spongebob costume that was “recognizably fake,” he said that didn’t matter to the little girl. She wanted to meet the cartoon character before she died.
“She gave me the biggest hug I think I have ever gotten and she gave me a kiss on the Spongecheek. It just kind of touched my heart,” Linder said.
An Odessa High School graduate, Linder had been involved in gymnastics for many years.
“I figured Spider-Man kind of went along with gymnastics and I could kind of use it to relate, so I used the gymnastics and did tricks and flips and stuff like that and kind of wow the audience and help children believe more,” Linder said.
His charity for his sideline is Next Level Heroes, which has a Facebook page where people share their experience with the crime fighters. Sometimes Linder travels weekly and goes out of town to hospitals in Lubbock or Dallas.
Children don’t have to be terminally ill or in the neonatal intensive care unit to get a visit from Linder. They could have a broken bone, or it could be their birthday, he said.
Linder said he normally just takes his fiancé, Jessie Raines, with him to the hospital. Together, Linder and Raines have two have two children, Serenity Reyes, who is almost 3, and Wyatt Linder, who is 1 month old.
In a text message, Linder said Serenity is his helper when he performs in big shows. She helps hype the crowd for him and cheers, which gives him motivation to try bigger and better tricks. Linder said Serenity also performs forward rolls and sometimes balances in his hand and says “ta-da.”
Although he mostly dresses as Batman and Spiderman, Linder said he does take requests. If he gets one, he’ll buy the costume because it could be used for future engagements. He gets engagements by word of mouth and through Facebook where people write about their experiences with Next Level.
He said giving kids a lift is “definitely a one-of-a-kind feeling.”
Linder added that the experiences can be heartbreaking, but it feels good at the same time.
Odessa Regional Medical Center Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nursing Officer Levi Stone said regardless of age, hospital stays can be stressful. Linder’s visits can help lighten the mood and give the patients and families a break.
Stone said everyone loves Spider-Man and Batman and they reflect the true heroes – the sick and premature babies that the hospital takes care of.
“We see them as true superheroes,” Stone added.
Linder’s baby, Wyatt, was recently in the Odessa Regional NICU. Linder said the baby has hemophilia.
“Families create memories in the NICU. Many of these can be heartache and many can be milestones that have been achieved. When Spider-Man got to come visit the babies in the NICU, this was creating a memory for these families. This was not just a memory, this was also a smile. Some days are joyful days in the NICU and some days can be terribly hard for our parents and staff in the NICU. It is days like this that bring smiles and happiness to create a memory that can last a lifetime for these families and staff,” ORMC Director of Marketing and Community Relations Tasa Richardson.