EWU Students Create Costumes for Kids in Wheelchairs

For Serena Dewey, a graduate student in EWU’s occupational therapy program, the outcome of her most recent class project was beyond rewarding. “Empowering a child in a wheelchair to successfully and confidently do something like trick-or-treating is exactly what occupational therapy is all about,” she says.

Dewey was among a multidisciplinary team of graduate students, organized and sponsored by the Student Occupational Therapy Association, who created costumes for kids who have limited mobility and are in wheelchairs.

“This project was such a great opportunity to collaborate with other students preparing to work in the health care field while simultaneously being able to give something back to families in the community,” she says.

Cameron Nelson, a graduate student in the physical therapy program says the event helped him reconnect with why he chose to go into PT in the first place. “Interacting with the kids and parents through this project was the perfect reminder of the joy and gratitude I feel when I make a difference in someone’s life,” he says.

The group of EWU students, which included graduate students studying occupational therapy, physical therapy and communication sciences and disorders, opened the program to 10 local families. The students first met with the children in early October to hear about their costume dreams. Dewey says the costume requests included a princess carriage, a backhoe, Mater from the Cars series, the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, Bullseye from Toy Story and many more.

During the month of October, one of the occupational therapy classrooms was transformed into a workshop where EWU students designed and created the costumes. Then on Monday, Oct. 28, the kids and their families returned to be fitted with their finished costumes.

“The moment the boy who had requested a Mater costume looked up and saw the students bringing out the truck, he spread his arms open wide and excitedly said, ‘My Mater, my Mater,’” recalls Dewey. “It was absolutely priceless to see the pure joy in his face when he saw his dream costume come to life in front of him.”

For Nelson, the reaction of the kids paired with the thanks from the parents made it all worth it. “[One boy’s mom] expressed how happy she was to have participated this year and how grateful she was to know her son really enjoyed the event,” he says.

Finally, the evening wouldn’t have been complete without an opportunity for the kids to trick-or-treat around the Health Sciences Building in their new costumes—a little extra candy never hurts.

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