Dad Builds Elaborate Costumes for Kids in Wheelchairs... for Free
When Reese Davis was 3 years old, his favorite movie was Pixar’s “Wall-E.” He wanted to dress as the movie’s title character for Halloween that year. But Reese, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at 2 months old, uses a wheelchair to get around. His parents knew that finding a costume in a store to fit Reese’s wheelchair would be impossible.
So Lon Davis, Reese’s dad, took matters into his own hands. He and his wife Anita Davis built their son a Wall-E robot costume from scratch that fit over the top of his wheelchair. It even featured mechanical arms Reese could operate from inside the costume.
Every year after that, Reese would come up with a creative idea for his costume and his dad would figure out a way to make the design work with Reese’s wheelchair. Within a few years, Davis and Reese had come up with numerous elaborate costume designs, one of which was featured on Fox News in April 2015.
It was around that same time that Davis was asked to show other families how to make costumes like the ones he’d made for Reese at the 2015 Planet Comic Con event in Kansas City, Missouri. Davis realized many families would not be able to justify the cost of buying materials to make the costumes, and he wanted to find a way to help.
“That’s when we decided, ‘What if we make them for free for these families?’” Davis, who lives and works near Kansas City, Kansas, told The Mighty in an email.
In spring 2015, he launched Walkin’ & Rollin’, a nonprofit organization that creates costumes for kids who use walkers and wheelchairs — free of charge. Families can request a costume through the Walkin’ and Rollin’ website, and Davis works with that family to design a costume based on what the child wants. First, Davis creates sketches and design concepts and sends them to the child to approve. Then, with help from Reese, now 10, he gets to work constructing the costume out of materials like cardboard, PVC pipes and other lightweight craft supplies.
“A lot of what Reese helps with is helping me to understand what works for a child in a wheelchair and what doesn’t,” Davis told The Mighty. “When I build a costume for his chair, he will give me hints like, ‘No, you can’t do that because then I can’t reach my brakes for my chair,’ or ‘If you attach that bar here instead, then I can get in and out of my chair easier.’”
Davis and Reese are currently working on building the costumes for children to wear this upcoming Halloween. In the months leading up to the holiday, Davis will hand-deliver the costumes to the children and their families. His first delivery will be a Mickey Mouse costume for a 2-year-old boy.
“The [families’] reactions to the initial sketches I sent are pure excitement,” Davis told The Mighty. “They can’t wait.”
Because his costumes usually require multiple fittings during the construction phase, Davis hopes to establish a network of volunteer builders around the country. That way, he can more easily get costumes to children outside the Kansas City area. He also plans to expand the Walkin’ & Rollin’ YouTube channel to include instructional “How to” videos so families can build costumes for their children themselves.
Whether it’s by teaching families to build costumes on their own or designing and constructing the final products himself, Davis’s ultimate goal is to get these costumes to as many kids as possible.
“My son recently told me that he doesn’t think of his wheelchair as a wheelchair. He thinks of it as part of him. Where ever he goes, the wheelchair goes,” Davis wrote on the Walkin’ & Rollin’ Kickstarter page. “So when Halloween comes, he wants all of him to dress up, including his wheelchair. I don’t think my son is the only kid who thinks that way, do you?”
Take a look at more Walkin’ & Rollin’ costume designs and final products in the photos below.
Walkin’ and Rollin’ Costumes will hold its first costume-building workshop in Kansas City, Missouri, on September 13. For more information about the event, head here.
To learn more about Walkin’ & Rollin’ costumes, to see more design ideas or to sign up as a volunteer builder, visit the organization’s website and Facebook page. The company’s Kickstarter campaign, which has already raised more than double it’s goal amount, runs through August 31.