Mak­ing mag­i­cal cos­tumes for kids in wheel­chairs fills Ryan’s heart with joy!

When Ryan Weimer turned his lit­tle boy’s elec­tric wheel­chair into an elab­o­rate pi­rate ship for Hal­loween, he had no idea how much hap­pi­ness and con­fi­dence he’d be giv­ing— not just to his son but to chil­dren in wheel­chairs all over the world

Woman's World - - Contents - —Alexan­dra Pol­lock

What do you want to be for Hal­loween, buddy?” Ryan Weimer ex­cit­edly asked his 3-year-old son, Keaton. With­out miss­ing a beat, Keaton, who has a rare form of mus­cu­lar dys­tro­phy called spinal mus­cu­lar atro­phy that af­fects the con­trol of mus­cle move­ment, looked up from his wheel­chair and blurted, “A pi­rate!” “That’s the best idea ever!” Ryan smiled. And that night, the Keizer, Ore­gon, fa­ther searched the in­ter­net into the wee hours of the morn­ing for the per­fect pi­rate out­fit. “I want to make this spe­cial for him,” Ryan told his wife, Lana. Af­ter all, this would be Keaton’s first Hal­loween in his pow­ered wheel­chair and Ryan had al­ready seen the neigh­bor­hood chil­dren stop in their tracks when they saw Keaton at the play­ground. I want him to be the cen­ter of at­ten­tion for a dif­fer­ent rea­son, Ryan thought. Sud­denly, he had a mag­i­cal idea: Ev­ery pi­rate needs a ship. What if I con­struct a ship around Keaton’s chair?

An un­ex­pected mis­sion

A few weeks and two failed at­tempts later, Ryan had fi­nally built the per­fect boat to sur­round his son’s wheel­chair. “It’s so cool!” Keaton crowed with joy as ex­cite­ment lit up his face like Ryan had never seen.

The night of Hal­loween, Keaton, dressed as a pi­rate, could barely con­tain his joy as Ryan at­tached the boat

to his chair. “Argh!” the boy cried as he sped off to find his Hal­loween plun­der.

“That’s the most awe­some cos­tume I’ve ever seen!” one child ex­claimed as Keaton made his way down the side­walk.

As Keaton laughed, rev­el­ing in the at­ten­tion of chil­dren and adults alike, Ryan felt his eyes well with tears. “Peo­ple are re­ally see­ing him,” he said to Lana. “It’s not just about his wheel­chair…it’s about him.”

As his son gig­gled with glee, Ryan knew he’d never for­get the joy of that night… and the seed of an idea was planted.

The power of giv­ing

Over the next few years, Ryan con­tin­ued to build cos­tumes for Keaton and his younger son, Bryce, who had also been born with spinal mus­cu­lar atro­phy. But for Hal­loween of 2014, Ryan was faced with his great­est chal­lenge yet. “I want to be a dragon rider from How to Train Your Dragon!” Keaton ex­claimed.

“That means I’d have to build Tooth­less the dragon…right?” Ryan asked, as his son nod­ded. It would be a huge project, and Ryan quickly re­al­ized that the cost of ma­te­ri­als was far be­yond his fam­ily’s bud­get. So he be­gan a Kick­starter cam­paign, pledg­ing that any money he made past the orig­i­nal goal of $4,500 would go to­ward start­ing a non­profit that builds cos­tumes for other kids in wheel­chairs.

When the cam­paign reached $10,000, Magic Wheel­chair (Mag­ was born, and Ryan and a team of vol­un­teers got started. In their first year, they cre­ated eight cos­tumes for kids in Ore­gon, At­lanta and Florida. By the sec­ond year, that num­ber had grown to 25 across the coun­try. Last year, Magic Wheel­chair cre­ated more than 80 cos­tumes—all free!

And the kids aren’t the only ones who are over­joyed. One Colorado mom raves, “Each time my daugh­ter gets to wear her cos­tume, she shines—it was such a beau­ti­ful and life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for her.”

For Ryan, there’s no greater gift than see­ing the smiles light up each child’s face. “These kids spread so much joy and re­mind us to love each other and love our neigh­bor,” he says, his voice break­ing. “Ev­ery­thing we do at Magic Wheel­chair is done out of that love. The truth is, I’m just a dad who wanted to make his sons’ Hal­loween mag­i­cal—so to be able to do that for so many other kid­dos is a true bless­ing!”

Broth­ers Bryce ( left) and Keaton ( right), who both have spinal mus­cu­lar atro­phy, sport­ing their How to Train Your Dragon cos­tumes in 2014 The cos­tume that be­gan it all! In 2008, when Ryan’s old­est son Keaton was 3 years old, Ryan made his first wheel­chair “ship”— and set them all off on a new, joy­ful course!

“These kids re­mind us of what’s truly im­por­tant: love!” says Ryan (left) with his son Keaton (right) in 2016

Ryan lets kids choose their de­signs, like the Su­gar Cart from Wreck-it Ralph

Ryan also makes cos­tumes for Comic Con, like The Flash

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