It’s the busiest time of year for Magic Wheelchair, a nonprofit organization that “seeks to put a smile on the face of every child in a wheelchair.” They are working overtime creating life-changing Halloween experiences for kids across the country.
Recently they met 8-year-old Daniel, who has terminal brain and spinal cancer and just lost the ability to walk. When he wrote in to Magic Wheelchair about his love for “Star Wars,” they saw an opportunity to brighten his day.
The group hosted a reveal party and outfitted him in a custom “TIE Fighter” costume that was personalized to his wheelchair.
“That’s what it’s all about,” said Magic Wheelchair’s founder, Ryan Weimer. “Building for kiddos like Daniel who have it pretty rough, but we can help put a smile on their face.”
Weimer has been helping put smiles on kids’ faces this way since 2008 when his son Keaton, who has a form ofcalled Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), said he wanted to be a pirate for Halloween. Weimer built a pirate ship surrounding Keaton’s wheelchair.
Three of the Weimers’ five kids have SMA, and the costume requests became even more challenging, like transforming a child and chair into Toothless from “How to Train Your Dragon.”
“I was thinking to myself ‘holy crap, how am I gonna build that?’” said Weimer. “So I got online looking for different ideas. I came across the Stan Winston School of Character Arts … and I saw this foam fabricator named Ted Haines. he had a course where he built a head out of foam and I signed up right away.”
Little did he know that a beautiful partnership was about to be born.
“I sent him an email and told him what I was doing,” said Weimer. “I think we had a Kickstarter [fundraising campaign] going around that time. They loved what I was doing and our mission. They refunded my two-month subscription that I paid for, and gave me a lifetime membership.”
Armed with help from the Stan Winston pros, Weimer created a magical Halloween for his entire family. That’s when he realized that this could impact other kids in the same situations.
He started a nonprofit, created a website, and started taking requests from other kids. The school teamed up to provide mentors to help Magic Wheelchair volunteers across the country.
Communities have since come together to fundraise and build teams that work together to create the costumes of kids’ dreams.
Weimer says they are now getting daily requests from kids, and as they become more popular and well known they are also getting more volunteers.
“I think by the end of last year we had built eight [costumes],” said Weimer. “By the end of this year we’ll be at 25-26 costumes and we’ve grown to 15-20 teams.”
Weimer’s organization has not only impacted kids, but communities. Weimer sees it as an opportunity to help people understand the needs of families that struggle with physical disabilities.
“These certain challenges, people don’t see those,” said Weimer. “But as they get involved with families like mine, they learn more about what they can do.”