Magic Wheelchair presents Galt special needs student with unique Halloween ‘costume’


Charity Organization Magic Wheelchair presented Galt High School special needs student Christopher Sheldon with a unique Halloween “costume” made in partnership with last year’s engineering students. Photo by Josh Cullers, Galt High School.

Josh Cullers, Galt High School

Just in time for Halloween, Galt High School special needs student Christopher Sheldon was presented with a custom-made John Deere tractor costume that was made by the previous year’s engineering students in partnership with the non-profit organization Magic Wheelchair.

Magic Wheelchair is an organization that builds costumes for children and teens in wheelchairs at no expense to their families, like that of Chris Sheldon, who uses a wheelchair because of his cerebral palsy. 

Working with Galt High has been years in the making, said Magic Wheelchair volunteer Cory Hunt.

“I met (Galt High engineering teacher Brooke) Beckett at what’s called a Makers Faire … and I was there representing Magic Wheelchair,” Hunt said. “We had a booth and we were talking to people about what we do, and she told me that there was a kid who goes to her school who would love to have a costume. 

“. . . and then a couple years passed (because) COVID had happened, and so everything had kind of slowed down. And then she asked if I was still able to do a build and I said yes, and she said that the high school wanted to … help with the build.”

Before the process of building the costume began, Magic Wheelchair met with the Sheldon family to make a plan for the project, said Chris’s mom, Rebecca Sheldon

“We met with the Magic Wheelchair team, and, and they just talked to Christopher about what his favorite things were and what he would like to have,” Rebecca said. “He was really – and he still is – into farming simulator, so he wanted some sort of tricked-out tractor, and then they just kind of took it from there.”

After the pandemic restrictions eased, the students got to work on the costume process, said Beckett, the GHS engineering teacher.

“We started the first week of school in January last year with the Principles of Engineering class,” Beckett said. “(They) interviewed Chris, (they) built it, (they) designed it. Cory (Hunt) and Troy (Santoro) would tell me what we needed to get done for the week … (and) teach (the students) how to do it.”

In terms of the work, every bit of it was done by students, Beckett said.

“I was the liaison between the family, Magic Wheelchair and the students,” Beckett said. “I didn’t build a single part of the final costume, but I could tell you who did each part because I was right there guiding them through the steps that Cory, Troy and Mr. (John) Van Den Raadt taught me.”

The project was not finished before school was let out for the summer, so that’s when the Magic Wheelchair crew swept in to finish it, Hunt said.

“That summer we spent the time finishing up the hood (and) we worked on figuring out some of the intricacies,” Hunt said. “So basically we just took it over during our downtime and worked on shaping it, painting it, putting an epoxy coat on it so it’s strong. It was weekends of working for like 10 or 12 hours a day.”

After the summer, students weren’t able to continue work on much of the costume, Beckett said.

Chris got put into engineering in August 2022, so to keep the project week hidden, none of the students saw the final product prior to reveal day,” Beckett said. “They all knew the plan and all the pieces, but the final touches of colored paint, epoxy and attaching the decor they had created was done out of sight of Chris off campus.

Despite not putting the finishing touches on, the students gained invaluable experience, Hunt said. 

One of the things that I always love about teaching is when you teach you learn something new – because you have to give people a skill set that they may have no idea how to do,” Hunt said. “I’m lucky in that when I was a kid, I was doing lots of construction stuff with my dad. High school kids don’t necessarily have parents who do construction stuff.

After the work was completed and the costume was revealed, those in attendance were very happy to see Chris get his costume, including GHS principal Kellie Beck.

I was very excited to be part of this wonderful event,” Beck said. “The Magic Wheelchair organization along with the support of our GHS BEST (Biomedical Engineering Science and Technology) Engineering students designed and delivered the most amazing costume I have ever seen. 

“I was so proud of the work of my students and their ability to help with this amazing endeavor to support one of our favorite students on campus.  And because I have a family of farmers at home, I was thrilled to see that Chris really wanted to be riding into Halloween in a John Deere tractor.  It was a great effort by all and a pleasure to be included.

No one was more excited than Chris himself, said his mom Rebecca.

“He has been so excited,” she said. “He woke up at least five times in the night last night and we’re like, ‘No, it’s not morning yet, go back to sleep.’ I think he’s just mostly excited that so many people got together to do this.”

Chris and his family were very appreciative that the community gave him this opportunity Rebecca said.

“I just think it’s awesome because then a lot of the kids in the class got to know him better,” she said. “It kind of helped him be more accessible to the rest of the student body. So that they saw him as a person, and not just the kid in the wheelchair. … It helped bridge the gap between him and the student body.”

These sentiments were echoed by Beckett.

I’ve never heard so many compliments from high school students,” Beckett said. “When Chris did a lap around the quad, students who never would have said hi were complimenting him on how epic his costume was.

The costume was so cool that people frequently stopped Chris for pictures to go with their compliments.

“Yes,” it was awesome, said Christopher, who because of his cerebral palsy uses a speech device to communicate verbally.

Chris was very thankful, and had a simple message for all the people who made it happen.

“Thank you.” he said.