Turning Wheelchairs into Dreams
By Cory Hunt, Magic Wheelchair Builder
In May of 2015 I met a man who would help me change my life for the better.
Ryan Weimer was at the West Coast Haunters Convention in Portland, Oregon with his son, Keaton. At first I had no idea Keaton was in a wheelchair. He was riding a giant Indominus Rex (dinosaur) like it was a pony.
Only after Ryan started talking to me about the Magic Wheelchair non-profit did I realize that Keaton was differently abled. He has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. I hadn't even thought "wheelchair" when I first saw him. My brain had only thought, "Kid on a HUGE dinosaur." That was a moment for me that I would never forget.
Costumes Transform the Chair and Shifts Focus to the Child
On the surface I understand that people often see the wheelchair, or what society calls disabilities, and completely miss the person before them. Realizing I had thought "Oh, he is in a wheelchair," really shocked me.
It also showed me the power of transformation that Magic Wheelchair has to offer. Volunteers get to transform a mechanical object into a costume that is just amazing. And guess what? We love doing it. The smiles we get from the kids are absolutely rewarding.
Watching the joy as the kids zoom around in airplanes, carriages, race cars, Jurassic Park wagons, Tie Fighters, Predator ships and Moana outrigger canoes… there is no comparison.
We make costumes to let a kid be seen for who they are and not what they get around in.
It isn't about hiding—it is about transforming. To me it is the ultimate costume experience. It is a cooler Cosplay.
The best part? It is all through donations.
The family doesn't have to pay for the supplies or the time it takes for construction.
Each team reaches out to their network, church, school, work place, wherever they can to get the money and supplies. The generosity of those who give never ceases to amaze me.
Child with Brittle Bone Disease Becomes Supergirl
Last May I was asked to do a build for San Diego Comic Con. I was paired with a wonderful girl, named Zoe, who has been featured on the BBC documentary "Our Baby Made of Glass."
She was going to be Supergirl. We would be doing a themed build with six teams. Each team would build a kiddo a costume for the major characters in the Justice League Movie.
I loved every minute of it. Not only did I research the possible costumes I could build for her, but I spent a lot of time researching Osteogenesis Imperfecta (also known as "brittle bone disease"). I wanted to build a costume she would enjoy, be able to interact with, and would not hurt her in any way. I had only heard of the disease and had no idea of all of its effects or impact.
I know we all have our bubbles of experience and it is hard to imagine other people's struggles and lives. This was my opportunity to get to know Zoe and her family. She is an amazingly bright and cheerful child who is going to be a remarkable person when she grows up. I am truly blessed to have been allowed into her life.
The group of friends and family I had helping worked long hours in my garage in 100+ degree weather (Fahrenheit). While I admit it was uncomfortable, at no time were we upset at the project or the conditions we were building in.
We had a fantastic time working on it. I would gladly do it again. Even in that heat.
Adam Savage and the Stan Winston School of Character Arts made the event at San Diego Comic Con even more special. It was a whirlwind of preparation and set up. In the end, it was a huge success. My favorite moment was getting to finally meet Zoe and her family for the first time.
You see, unlike most builders, I had to rely on measurements provided from Chelsea, Zoe's mom, and the wheelchair manufacturer. I had designed a way to attach the costume to a chair I had never touched or seen in person. It was a little nerve wracking. Thankfully, the system we figured out worked like a charm.
Even better, Zoe loved it.
WE NEED KIDS to Sign Up to Get a Costume
We have had some great successes this past year. Adam Savage from Tested and Myth Busters has signed on to do a build. "George Takai Presents" has shared MWC on Facebook, and we have been featured in Popular Mechanics, Great Big Story, Mental Floss and countless news stories across the nation (and internationally). Magic Wheelchair is growing! Builders are signing on in numbers we are overjoyed at.
Our problem right now? Getting the builders who really want to do amazing things connected with kids who want cool costumes. We need more kids to sign up on our website. It is absolutely free.
This means you. If you are a kid or have a kid who uses a wheelchair or similar mobility device, we want you to sign up. We love doing this and want you to have an epic costume.
Want to be in an Airstream camper? We have done that. A kitchen? Yep, that, too. A Barn from Old MacDonald's farm? Check. Bane bursting through a wall? Star Destroyer? Wooden Dutch Shoe? Count us in.
Our goal is to build one of these costumes for every kiddo who wants one...and then start again (this is our founder's mantra).
Want to sign up? Here is how: https://www.magicwheelchair.org/apply/
We look forward to building for you!
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