Halloween is in the air, and kids are getting excited. But it’s this candy-fueled buzz that makes it so easy to overlook the many kids who aren’t included on Halloween. Oregon dad, Ryan Weimer, solved this problem when he took matters into his own hands — by custom-making Halloween costumes for his two sons’ wheelchairs.
Keaton, 10, and Bryce, 4, are confined to wheelchairs because of a condition called spinal muscular atrophy, a form of muscular dystrophy that has already taken the lives of two of Weimer’s other children. Ever since his kids were old enough to dress up, Weimer has gone all out to create elaborate Halloween costumes for them.
Because the condition hits so close to home, and because Weimer has even gone so far as to take an online special-effects course to make his custom costumes better, the family launched a charity called Magic Wheelchair two years ago. The mission statement of Magic Wheelchair is simple and inclusive: It’s a nonprofit that makes epic Halloween costumes for kids in wheelchairs. The organization is currently accepting donations and volunteers and took eight other children trick-or-treating with Bryce and Keaton last year.
As Weimer told KGW News, the hand-built costumes are so intricate, that he has to start making them six weeks before Halloween. Last year, his sons chose wheelchair costumes based on the movie How to Train Your Dragon.
“Kids in wheelchairs often have short lives, so you have to create epic memories,” Weimer explains.
Weimer’s homemade costumes are making waves, and not just because we’re seeing a dad go out of his way to make lasting memories for his kids. These wheelchair costumes are gaining national attention because they’re uncovering a big hole in the Halloween costume market.
Where are the Halloween costumes for kids of different abilities?
With a quick Google search, you’ll see that the unfortunate answer is: nowhere to be found. The reason Weimer is painstakingly making such creative costumes at home, is because wheelchair Halloween costumes don’t really exist from the largest retailers. Last year, Target finally featured a young girl with spina bifida in its Halloween costume ad, but the manufacturing of specialty wheelchair costumes is still almost nonexistent.
It’s no wonder parents of children in wheelchairs, like Weimer, have been taking over Pinterest for the past few years to make homemade wheelchair costumes that are better than the real thing. While these parents should be celebrated for making Halloween memorable for a child who might otherwise be excluded, we can’t ignore the fact that the children’s Halloween costume market is skewed in the wrong direction.
Weimer turned this lack of diversity into a good cause that’s helping other kids with disabilities to celebrate Halloween. But the reality is, more major retailers should be making costumes for children of all abilities, including children with special needs and physical limitations.
Weimer says Magic Wheelchair has more than one hundred pending requests from kids waiting for custom-made wheelchair costumes. With this kind of overwhelming response, it stands to reason that thousands of parents around the country are looking for more diverse Halloween costumes so that their children with special needs aren’t forced to sit this one out.
Weimer’s inspirational story is wonderful to read at this time of year, but it has a much deeper meaning. We need more diversity and inclusion for all kids on Halloween. Parents, like Weimer, are speaking up, and we can only hope Halloween costume manufacturers are listening.