Origin Story

At the end of the 20th Century, a young man named Justin Patrick O’Neill left the life he knew in the city and suburbs of Chicago to go on a journey of discovery. The first step on his journey was Southern Illinois, a land he would soon call home. On the streets of Carbondale and in the heart of the Shawnee Forest, he was reborn as Treesong, champion of the underdog and stalwart defender of the living land.
Treesong spent the next several years doing what he could to serve and protect the people and land, participating in local community groups and traveling in search of adventure and in service to his new mission. Finally, in 2009, Treesong discovered that he was not alone. There were a growing number of Real Life Superheroes, each with their own identity, goals, and tactics, but all with a profound commitment to serving their communities. Treesong realized that he, too, was a Real Life Superhero, and found renewed inspiration to pursue his mission in Southern Illinois and beyond.
Treesong (Photo by Gregg Sperling)Since joining the Real Life Superhero movement, Treesong has participated in many events in support of his mission, including a trip to Superheroes Anonymous 4, a local Hero Fest to celebrate and promote community groups, volunteer work for several community groups and causes, and both professional and volunteer community organizing at Gaia House Interfaith Center. His current emphasis is on his climate-themed writing and Your Community Spirit, the talk radio show he co-hosts on WDBX.
Treesong is the founder and current branch leader of the Illinois Initiative (ILI), the local branch of the international Initiative Collective. ILI works on a variety of community projects in Southern Illinois. These projects vary over time based on the needs of the local community.