SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Halloween is less than a week away, and for many kids the most important part is the costume.
Finding the perfect costume can be hard for kids with physical differences, who may use wheelchairs or walkers. Volunteers at Shriners Children’s Salt Lake City are making sure every kid gets the costume of their dreams.
Shriners Children’s treats children with a wide range of orthopedic needs. They provide speech and occupational therapy, as well as create custom wheelchairs, orthotics and prosthetics.
Each Halloween, they transform patients wheelchairs into any costume they want. Volunteers spend weeks designing, engineering and sourcing materials for costumes. They then work together with the kids and their families to build the Halloween magic.
"It's like a pit crew,” said Dawn Wright, the Director of Marketing and Communications for Shriners Children’s Salt Lake City.
Wright said door to door trick or treating can be tough for kids with physical differences, but these costumes level the playing field.
"We are helping more than 40 children this Halloween get to be whatever they want,” she said.
Parent Shelby Stanger says her two-year-old daughter Claira reminds her of Baby Yoda.
"Just the way he moved. He moves just like her. She's very stiff with her condition, it's called Arthrogryposis.”
Claira was born with stiff joints. Her knees are stuck straight and her ankles don't move. When Claira was just eight months old, she was part of a study at Shriners to see how young they can teach babies to drive power chairs.
"A lot of kids don't get any sort of mobility help until around five," said Stanger. "Because that's when they start preschool, Kindergarten, and they need it. When really mentally, they need mobility at one, two, like a normal little kid,”
Now at two, Claira is a pro with the chair, and the added mobility has helped grow her vocabulary and her toddler attitude.
"It’s let her be a little two-year-old and run away from me just like she's supposed to,” Stanger said. "Mentally she wants to do everything that a little two-year-old does, and so this gives her the freedom to be able to do it."
Three-year-old Noah also went the star was route for Halloween as an Ewok.
"They're going to make his wheelchair look like a treehouse,” said his mom Megan Rindlisbacher.
Before our eyes the wheelchairs disappeared, instead a cowgirl in a covered wagon and a raptor that's taken over a Jurassic Park jeep. After hours of building, the kids showed off their costumes in a Halloween parade. The train conductor led the way, followed by Cinderella in her carriage. A parade of kids whose wheelchairs were hardly noticed as their smiles stole the show.