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Halloween for the Rest of Us costume parade a treat for kids who use wheelchairs

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital once again is teaming with community volunteers to make Halloween a little more magical for kids who use wheelchairs.

Costume construction is nearly complete for more than a dozen current and former Mary Free Bed patients, who will get to show off their awesome creations in the Halloween for the Rest of Us parade. The second annual event is 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, beginning at the hospital’s main entrance at 235 Wealthy St. SE.

The public is invited to attend and line the parade route. Children who use wheelchairs are welcome to come in costume and participate in the parade, along with their families and friends.

Dozens of volunteers from Mary Free Bed and Owen-Ames-Kimball commercial construction company have been working with Grand Valley State University engineering and physical therapy students to make the elaborate costumes, constructed to encompass the children’s wheelchairs. Each costume takes 10 to 15 hours to create.

One little boy has been practicing blowing kisses for the parade from his Snoopy Kissing Booth. Another will be a pirate commanding his ship. They’ll be joined by butterflies, princesses, a fire truck, Harry Potter and other characters, including Skye from the animated series “PAW Patrol” about rescue dogs in training.

“It really looks like it’s flying,” said April, a patient who chose to be Skye, a fearless cockapoo who loves to take to the skies in her helicopter. GVSU students engineered the blades to rotate, bringing April’s costume to life.

Also participating in the parade this year will be 100-plus members of the Forest Hills Central Marching Band, and the Grand Rapids Police and Kent County Sheriff departments.

The event was held for the first time last year after Mary Free Bed Guild member Molly Krauss was inspired by the Halloween costumes created by her friends, Chris and Jane Weatherford, for their son. The Weatherfords wanted Cam, who has cerebral palsy and uses a power wheelchair, to enjoy Halloween with his able-bodied friends.

Over the years, they transformed 10-year-old Cam’s wheelchair into a spaceship, race car, fire engine, school bus and a tank. Molly and the Weatherfords wanted to make the same thing happen for young Mary Free Bed patients who use wheelchairs.

“These children deserve a Halloween just like every other child,” Molly said. “We want it to be a magical day.”

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