For over three years, Mattia Villardita at APM Terminals Vado Ligure in Italy has been impersonating his favourite superhero and paying young hospital patients uplifting visits. During the recent lockdown, his activity moved online, but his engagement and passion never changed a bit.
In his day job, Mattia Villardita looks like an ordinary terminal employee who likes what he does and appreciates the people he works with. But there is another personality hidden beneath the protective gear and APM Terminals uniform.
Mattia’s alter ego is Spiderman, who visits young patients in nearby hospitals to keep the children’s spirits high and “bring an explosion of colour into the grey hospital life they are used to”, as he puts it.
A hero is born
“The idea to dress up as Spiderman and engage in goodwill work came from my desire to personally do some good and show gratitude for the help I received when I was a patient myself,” shares Mattia.
Having to undergo multiple surgeries on one leg until the age of 20, Mattia spent countless hours and days in hospitals, an experience that profoundly changed his life.
“When you’re in a hospital, you see the world through a different lens and appreciate small things in life. Many people don’t realise how lucky they really are. So I felt this inner urge to do something, a mission almost,” he says before adding: “You simply either have this thing in you, or you don’t”.
For Mattia, this thing was not only his willingness to help, but also a superhero waiting to be revealed. A costume of his childhood idol, initially bought for a party among friends, gradually became a regular after-hours outfit.
Even superheroes stay home
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought yet another level of seriousness to the life of Mattia’s young proteges, but he found them surprisingly mature and conscious of the situation.
“I never had to lie to them or invent an imaginary villain to explain the situation,” he shares.
The social distancing, on the other hand, adds an additional challenge for small patients, who are already very isolated in hospitals. Not being able to visit them in person didn’t stop Mattia and his superhero alter ego from acting, so Spiderman went online and has so far enjoyed over 700 video calls with young patients.
“I still cheer them up and tell them not to worry and that sometimes even Spiderman needs to stay at home for a good cause. This helps them feel less alone and it’s also greatly appreciated by parents.”
Mattia assures that Spiderman has many more plans in the pipeline, and he can’t wait for the isolation to be over, so he can once again be physically present with his young friends. Meanwhile, he is practicing his tricks and may even be able to throw his spiderweb soon.
“You won’t believe how many times I’ve been asked to do that,” he laughs.
Always give your best
APM Terminals Vado Ligure, which had its grand opening less than a year ago, has remained fully operational throughout the pandemic thanks to strict safety and hygiene measures and smart ways of working. Its young and vibrant workforce (the average age being below 30) is very proud of its contribution to the local community and the economy.
“We have a great team and great culture, which truly inspires us to give the most of us and excel in whatever we do,” says Mattia.
As a gate and cargo controller, Mattia is not able to work remotely, so he takes up his usual post at the terminal every day, despite the circumstances. Committed to always giving his best in whatever he does, Mattia is happy to not have to choose between his career and charity work – or make any sacrifices.
“This work-life balance allows me to fully focus on two important pillars of my life. It’s great to be with a company that supports my charity work and has even offered me a new superhero costume to continue my passion.”
Despite his obvious superpowers and recent attention from national media, Mattia remains a modest and down-to-earth guy who only wants to make people happy – and bring a lot of colour into his own life.
“It not about me. It’s about the small things we can all do everyday to make some good. We are all simply passing by in this life, but we also have many ways of making it meaningful.”