Dad Builds Elaborate Costumes for Kids in Wheelchairs... for Free

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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.

Reese Wall-E
Photo of Reese’s Wall-E costume from the Walkin’ & Rollin’ Costumes Facebook page

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.

Baymax progress
Reese showing off his Baymax costume from the movie “Big Hero 6.” Photo from the Walkin’ & Rollin’ Costumes Facebook page
Batmobile
Photo of Batmobile costume sketch from the Walkin’ & Rollin’ Costumes Facebook page
Belle
Photo of Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” costume sketch from the Walkin’ & Rollin’ Costumes Facebook page
Captain America
Reese in his “Captain America” costume. Photo from the Walkin’ & Rollin’ Costumes Facebook page
ToyStory
Reese in his “Toy Story” costume. Photo from the Walkin’ & Rollin’ Costumes Facebook page

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.

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I’m a Special Education Teacher. Here’s What I Want Parents to Know.

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Dear Parents of Children With Special Needs,

I just want to start off by reminding you that you’re strong and incredible parents and human beings. You spend countless hours during your days and nights, making sure your child has every little thing he or she will need. In daily life, you have become more prepared, patient and empathetic people because of your unique family situations.

The new school year is quickly approaching and you must feel like a nervous wreck. Sending your children to school can sound so frightening; you’re basically starting from scratch, finding a positive learning environment that will meet your child’s needs and still make him or her happy, as well as having to build trust with a new staff all over again. I completely get it! I have a twin brother living with autism. He’s 24 years old, and I still feel this pit in my stomach every time he tackles something new.

As a special education teacher, I want what is in the best interest of your child and so much more. During the weekends, holiday breaks and teacher planning days, I miss your children! I wonder what they’re currently up to and how they’re doing. They start to consume most of my thoughts throughout the year, inside and outside of school. I’ve become empathetic with each and every child to the point that everything they go through and you go through, I feel like I go through it with you all, too.

Sure, some days are more difficult than others. On the difficult days, I may feel defeated, just like you may have felt before. On the fantastic days, I cry; the tears that come out are happy tears. I may push hard for progress on certain occasions because I feel I have an understanding as to what your children are capable of. I get pure joy out of witnessing any and all of the progress from your children. I want to be in constant communication with you and try my best to end my daily notes and evaluations of your kids on a positive note.

In the end, all I want is to build a loving rapport with your children and help them make leaps of progress into being the most independent, productive and well-rounded individuals they can possibly be. What initially motivated me to be a great teacher was the fact that I wanted to be the kind of teacher I’d want my brother to have in his classroom. I believe every teacher has their own motivations to be successful professionals.

I’m aware of the time and money you spend for education, doctors, therapists, social groups, medication, equipment and special foods. I also constantly think about you and how we can be helpful to you all. I love your children and truly admire your strength and dedication you’ve had throughout their whole lives. Stay strong and mighty!

Sincerely,

Nicole Whitman

Photo of the author, a young woman smiling in front of a road.

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Teens Build Special Video Camera for 13-Year-Old Born Without Arms

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Haley Horn is passionate about visual media and writing, and the 13-year-old Georgia native has her sights set on someday working in the entertainment industry.

When she started summer camp at The Green Room in Atlanta this July she was beyond thrilled to collaborate with other kids and produce a music video, but there was one obstacle to overcome. Hayley was born without arms, so holding a camera was going to be a bit of a challenge. But the people at re:imagine/ATL, the nonprofit behind the camp, found a way to make Haley’s dream become a reality.

Re:imagine/ATL founder Susanna Spiccia reached out to STE(A)M Truck, a mobile lab where art and technology professionals work with kids to design electronics and digital art. Spiccia asked if the organization could help create a camera for Horn, but she wanted to make sure the teens at STE(A)M truck were heavily involved in the design process. Not only was STE(A)M truck eager to accept the offer, but they quickly handed off the task to several youngsters at the Harland Boys & Girls Club in Atlanta. The team had access to a 3D printer, laser cutters and soldering stations, and after a few attempts they finally came up with the perfect solution for Haley.

The device they created rests on Haley’s right shoulder, and she uses her feet to control the attached Sony video camera. From the extra padding to the flashy paint job, it was perfect for the aspiring videographer’s needs.

Janiyah Favors, 13, who worked with STE(A)M Truck on the project told CNN, “It felt great. It felt nice to help Haley with her dream.” After Favors and her partner Kris Pilcher presented the shouldercam to Haley, the teen spent the whole week shooting footage for the camp’s final project. A number of her scenes are featured in the video, and she plans to continue pursuing her passion for filmmaking. Haley’s mom told CNN Haley wants to make a video about their new home, and that’s only the beginning.

“Just watch,” an excited Haley says in the CNN video above. “Watch me.”

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Why I Grieve for a Child I Haven't Lost

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As I sat on the bench in a public park, the tears came easily. Watching little toddlers peddling trikes and mothers chatting to babies. Seeing preschool children laughing and chatting as they wheeled around the water on their brightly colored scooters.

It has been building for a while.

The night before last it was anger and hurt as a friend shared how her 14-month-old was defiantly talking back when they were trying to get her to bed. I wanted to scream and say, “But she understands! But she talks!” Instead I mourned silently.

The world goes on while I grieve for a child I haven’t lost.

It is a very different pain to others. I know the pain of not having children. I know the pain of losing a yet-to-be-born baby. I know the pain of losing someone very close. I know that feeling of despair and anger and hopelessness. People understand when they know you have loved and lost.

But how do you explain you are grieving a child you have not lost?

I get to read to my son. I get to bathe him and dress him and kiss him. I hear him laugh when I tickle him and get to push him on the swings at the park. He goes to school. He will watch a video sometimes. And yet I feel he is lost.

I have yet to hear his voice. I grieve for the conversations we might never have. I grieve the fact I might never hear him sing or shout or chat with friends like those little ones in the park. I grieve for the fact I might never hear him tell me a joke or talk to me about his day at school. I grieve for the loss of never hearing him whisper “I love you.” I can only dream about what his little voice may sound like, how it might grow in depth and tone as he aged, what sort of accent he may have had or how he would pronounce names of people he knew. A part of him might never be. And I feel the loss and pain of that.

I grieve for all the milestones I have missed and may never have with him. As I watched a mom bend down to hold her son’s hand today to help him walk, I thought about how much she might take for granted. Her little one was not much over a year old and yet he confidently held her hand to take some steps. By the time my child did anything like this, he was tall enough that I had no need to bend and his hands weren’t as tiny as her son’s. I have skipped the toilet training, the bike riding, the learning to read and write, the school plays, the attending clubs and the having friends. We haven’t experienced things others take for granted and that I believe should be part of childhood. There is a loss and a sadness for times that might have been but might never be.

There is sadness that I cannot walk him to school or that he cannot go to school with his twin sister. There is pain relying on others to tell me about his day when I should hear it from him. There is heartbreak watching the neighbor’s child of the same age jump on a trampoline and my son cannot balance on one leg, let alone jump. There is a lump in my throat when people ask what my child wants for Christmas and he still plays with baby toys at almost 7. We have never experienced the tooth fairy with him, he has no concept of Santa Claus and neither chooses his own clothes nor has the ability to dress himself. He has never said, “Mommy can I have” or gotten upset because he cannot go out to play. He has no friends his own age and doesn’t get invited to parties.

He is here, but to many he isn’t.

I have a son. He is my pride and joy. I am so proud of everything he does. But I still grieve for him, for the things he might never achieve and the experiences he might never have. And I grieve for myself as a parent when I see a world of parenting I can only ever dream about.

As I sat on a bench in a public park, the tears came easily — tears of heartache and anger, tears of frustration and pain.

It is all part of the journey. Before I can move on I need to grieve for the loss. And grieving takes time.

So please forgive me and support me. Life goes on and I understand that. I have no bitterness at that.

But sometimes those tears are needed. Bear with me as I grieve for a child I haven’t lost.

Follow this journey on Faithmummy.

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21 Emotions Special Needs Experience During an IEP Meeting

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As many parents of children with special needs can tell you, IEP (individualized education program) meetings can be a lot to handle. They’re designed to be an opportunity for parents to reassess their child’s education plan with teachers and staff, but they often turn into a frustrating fight for services and therapies.

Knowing these meetings can be eventful, The Mighty asked parents what emotions they experience during an IEP meeting. This is what they had to say.

1. Nervous

“I hope this goes better than last year… “

2. Hopeful optimism

“We’re all here to help me child, right? We have the same goals, and we can do this together.”

3. Fear

“What if they try to take away the things my kid needs? What if they don’t hear me at all.”

4. Anger

“If you say ‘can’t accommodate’ or ‘not enough funding’ on more time…”

 

5. Restraint

“Remember, you don’t look good in prison orange, so you must keep calm…”

6. Determined

“I won’t lose sight of the real reason we’re here: my child’s well-being. I’ll make them see that my kid is the bottom line, not the budget.”

7. Overwhelmed

“Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry…”

8. Defeated

“It’s OK to cry a little bit… “

 

9. Worried

“Will they follow the plan? Are they even hearing me or just going through the motions?”

10. Frustrated

“Do you even know my child? I’m tired of educating the educators on how to educate my kid.”

11. Sad

“I hate that it has to come to this for my child to get what they need.”

12. Stressed

“Where do I see my child in the future? I don’t know, not in this meeting… ?”

 

13. Desperate

“Please stop pushing your own agenda and just listen to me.”

14. Offended

“Are you seriously questioning my parenting abilities?”

15. Confused

“There are far too many acronyms in this conversation.”

 

16. Annoyed

“I feel like a broken record. How many times must I repeat myself?”

17. Resolute

“Deep breaths. You can do this.”

18. Diplomatic

“We can find a compromise. We will work this out.”

19. Profound appreciation

“Would it creep them all out if I thank them a million times for getting through this with me and supporting my child?”

 

20. Relief

“It’s over. We survived.”

21. Dread

“We have to do this again in a year?”

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The Unique Way My Doctor Handled My Delayed Test Results

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This week, I spent a couple of days in the emergency room. I went into urinary retention, likely because the muscles or nerves in my bladder were affected. I was catheterized for the first time and pretty uncomfortable and in pain, and to be honest, scared. My dad decided to let my geneticist know I was in the hospital and what was going on. She had only met him one time months and months ago, but as soon as she saw him she said, “You’re Michelle’s dad, right?” She went on to tell him she had a busy day ahead of her but that she’d try to stop by. Because she’s a busy, in-demand doctor with tons of patients, I knew she’d try her best but probably wouldn’t be able to make it.

Many people were coming in and out of my room throughout the day. Orderlies restocking the cupboards, nurses checking my vitals and volunteers bringing meal trays. I was shocked when one of the knocks on the door was from my geneticist. She sat on my bed in a motherly way and asked me if I was OK and stayed for over half an hour talking to us.

I had been wondering about my gene tests and why the results hadn’t came in, and without even asking, she told me that she was wondering the same thing and had been calling the lab a few times to nag them. I was in disbelief. This doctor who has so many sick patients actually cared enough about my situation to keep a close eye out for my results. This was so new to me.

Over the past two years, I’ve had so many doctors, all of them overrun with patients and so stressed out and busy that they couldn’t even remember who I was, let alone which tests they ordered during my last visit. And here was my doctor, just as busy as all the others, taking her time to come see me, remembering my father after one brief meeting and nagging a lab about my test. Usually it’s the patient who has to nag about their results! She’s looking out for me in the same way I look out for myself, the same way my mother would look out for me, and that’s all I can ask.

To anyone reading this and thinking, “Man, I wish I had a doctor like that,” my advice is don’t settle. You deserve a doctor like this. I wished for so long to find a doctor who would advocate for me, and when I least expected it, she came. Don’t lose hope. They’re not easy to find, but they’re out there. Don’t settle for a doctor who makes you feel like a number. You deserve a Dr. B.

young woman in hospital

Follow this journey on Fight With Michelle.

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