Leonard “Lenny” Robinson, known to many as Batman due to his dedication to visiting hospitalized children while dressed as the superhero, died Aug. 16. He was 51. Robinson had stopped his car on the shoulder of Interstate 70 near Hagerstown, Md., to check on apparent engine trouble, when a Toyota Camry hit his Lamborghini Batmobile, which then hit him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Robinson, an Owings Mills resident who volunteered hundreds of hours and spent tens of thousands of dollars each year bringing happiness to ill children and their parents, was well-known in the halls of LifeBridge Sinai Hospital.
“The amazing thing about Lenny is that he used the Batman costume and the car to form a bond with kids; their eyes would light up, and the adults too,” said Dr. John Herzenberg, director of the International Center for Limb Lengthening at Sinai. “But the real contribution was Lenny; his humanity, his beautiful kindness, his generosity and his complete lack of guile. He was just a sincere, honest, caring man.”
Herzenberg, who knew Robinson from his visits to the pediatric ward and his regular attendance at — and support of — charity events for more than a decade, said Robinson was “inspired by the children as much as they were inspired by him,” and also quite humble, always deflecting any praise he received back to the kids, who Robinson referred to as “the real heroes.”
Marilyn Richardson, child-life specialist and pediatric liaison at Sinai, said Robinson made a world of difference in children’s lives.
“He was just amazing, he knew the kids personally; it was more than just a one-time visit. He knew them by name, he acknowledged them and loved them and gave them courage,” Richardson said, adding,
“When Batman came to see you, that changed everything.”
Robinson was also an anti-bullying advocate.
Richardson recalled that one young patient, who knew Batman from hospital visits and other charity events, told her schoolmates that “she knew Batman and he was her friend.” Her classmates teased her about the claim and called her a liar, which made her sad. When Robinson learned of the situation, “he showed up at school to prove them wrong. Then she became the star,” Richardson said.
Stacy Fox Crain met Robinson long before he took on the Batman persona. At about age 12, she moved onto the block where Robinson was her neighbor. Crain recalled that the Batman persona began when one of his sons became fascinated with the character as a little boy.
He started showing up at birthday parties dressed as the superhero, and soon after, his living and dining room was “packed with Batman regalia that he would give away” to kids.
Whoever requested him, whether for a birthday or at a hospital, “there was nothing that Lenny — or Batman — wouldn’t do for you. … He was a hero even before he dressed up,” Crain said.
Robinson was always doing favors for neighbors, too, even giving rides to Crain’s mother and grandmother when her grandfather was having heart surgery. And “if your house flooded, he was the first one there.”
Shua Bier, an attorney in Pikesville, met Batman when his daughter spent her first three months of life in Sinai’s neonatal unit. He saw him once again at Race for Our Kids, a fundraising event for the children’s hospital. “Whatever extra time and resources he had, he used for good. With my limited interaction, I could see he was a very special individual.”
Robinson’s selflessness was a big part of his character, whether in or out of costume.
“In that way he was a real hero,” said Herzenberg. “Anyone can put on a costume and drive a car, but only Lenny could do it with the feeling and emotion and caring of the kids and what they were going through.”
Robinson was the father of Justin, Brandon and Jake Robinson; son of Larry D. and Ilona M. Robinson (nee Mermelstein); brother of Scott (Jodi) Robinson and Michelle Robinson (Jeffrey Stroller); uncle of Marissa, Amanda and Lindsay Brook Robinson.
Contributions in his memory may be sent to Superheroes for Kids, c/o Marilyn Richardson (RIAO), Sinai Hospital, 1500 W. Belvedere Ave., Baltimore, MD 21215.