One of the more unique exhibitors at this year’s convention was the team from Walkin’ & Rollin’ Costumes, a Kansas-City-based group which designs and builds costumes for children confined to wheelchairs who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to join the cosplay community.
We got a chance to talk with the team’s leader, Lon Davis, about the work they do and what they bring to the cosplay world.
Josh Epstein: Lon, thanks for agreeing to talk with us. What made you and your team at Walkin’ & Rollin decide to do this?
Lon Davis: My son has been in wheelchairs his whole life, so when I started building Halloween costumes for him, I had to the build them around his chair. The more costumes I started to build over the yers, the more people started noticing and saying “how can we do that?” and “how can we build them?”
JE: What do you think is important about doing this, beyond taking care of your son, in a broader sense?
LD: I’ll give you an example. We had a little girl who, it was her first Halloween to be in a wheelchair and she was very depressed about it, wasn’t looking forward to dressing up or anything. Her parents contacted us and we talked to the child to find out what her interests were and we designed a custom-built costume for her. I would send her pictures and sketches every step of the way and she ended up getting so excited about it that she couldn’t wait for Halloween. It basically turned everything around for her and she ended up winning a costume contest.
JE: Did she contribute to the creative process?
LD: In a way. She looked at all the costumes we had designed on our website and she said “I can’t decide what I want.” She really liked the Cinderella’s carriage and, you know, wanted to do the whole coach and everything, but then says “I’m really in love with peacocks.” and said she didn’t know which way to go. So, I said “what if we combine them?” and said “you can do that?” and she came up with a peacock princess and we designed the whole costume based around that idea.
JE: What would you say is the biggest challenge in the construction of the suits?
LD: Probably that every single wheelchair is different because every child has different needs. Their wheelchairs are custom-built for them, so every costume has to be custom-built to fit that chair. The biggest challenge is when we don’t have the chair on-site and we have to base our entire design based on measurements provided by the families. We hope that everything is right, but we don’t know for sure, so we make it fit and kind of give it a little leeway just in case and then we ship it off. We try to ship it off early enough to where if there is a problem we do have time to fix it.
JE: Is there a costume that you want to tackle that you haven’t yet?
LD: There’s one that I’m getting ready to that I’m really excited about.
JE: And what costume is that?
LD:We get to do the Back to the Future DeLorean. We already have the flux capacitor and somebody donated the Mr. Fusion. We’re building it scale size, and we’re building it for a wheelchair about [the size of our General Lee design] so it’s only going to be about two feet wide. So we’re building all the components to that scale.
JE: So what’s next for your team?
LD: September 18th we’re doing a workshop at the Kansas City Woodworkers’ Guild from noon to four, where anyone can come. You can come out and we’re going to build two costumes, one of which is the DeLorean and the second one is yet to be decided so we’re taking suggestions. People can sign up to get a costume, so families can contact us and on September 1st we’ll pick the family, and that will be the second costume.
We also asked Callen Davis which of the costumes his dad had designed for him was his favorite, and he told us that it was the Miles costume from the Disney film Tomorrowland, which he was sporting on the second day of the convention.