Halloween. It’s every kid’s favorite holiday. But who are we kidding? Halloween during the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be the same as Halloween in years past. After all, most families will wisely forego trick-or-treating and Halloween parties to protect their children and themselves from exposure to the coronavirus.
But all’s not lost. HalloWheels, an annual costume design contest and fundraiser sponsored by C.A.T.S (Children’s Assistive Technologies Service), a nonprofit organization in Virginia, will still take place — though with some alterations (pun intended).
Founded in 2014 by Cathie Cummins, a retired pediatric physical therapist, C.A.T.S. provides free gently used pediatric rehabilitation equipment and assistive technology for children with disabilities who reside in Virginia. The program is all about families helping families.
“Cathie created a re-use program that started out of her garage and it’s grown to three locations— Roanoke, Hampton Roads and Richmond [Virginia] and it serves the whole state,” says John Naples, senior program manager at C.A.T.S Roanoke location.
“Adaptive equipment for children is expensive — even more expensive than adaptive equipment for adults,” Naples says. “That’s because children are all different sizes. A 2-year-old can’t use the same equipment as a 5-year-old.” As children grow, their families must keep purchasing new equipment and many can’t afford that he explains. “Cathie wanted all children to have the adaptive equipment they need.”
For the past five years, HalloWheels has brought joy to children who use wheelchairs and their families by asking volunteer teams to design costumes that incorporate the wheelchairs into the Halloween costumes. Members of the public pledge donations to the nonprofit when they vote for their favorite costumes.
In previous (read: pre-Covid) years, Naples says volunteer teams made up of students from local colleges created the costumes. “The kids really enjoy working with the students,” he says. “Last year was the best one ever. We expanded into four locations and the contests were happening all at the same time.” In 2019, recalls Naples, the winning team was comprised of students from the University of Lynchburg who created a [wheelchair-based] motorcycle for a child who dressed up as Captain America.
This year, 16 individual families will create costumes for their children using materials supplied by C.A.T.S with virtual assistance from the organization and its volunteer partners. While everyone who competes will receive a prize of at least $100, the first prize winner will receive a $750 gift certificate and the second prize winner will receive a $500 gift certificate donated by Enabling Devices that can be used to purchase products from the company.
“We are so thrilled to be able to support such a wonderful and creative endeavor,” says Enabling Devices President and CEO Seth Kanor. “We wish all of our customers, the happiest of Halloweens.”
Voting will take place beginning on October 26 through midnight on November 1! Each dollar donated is one vote for your favorite costume! Click here to submit your vote.