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Wheelchair Costume Clinic Finds a Way Amid a Pandemic

Makes National Headlines

Countless events have been cancelled or gone virtual, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the Halloween Wheelchair Costume Clinic at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City wasn’t going to be stopped!

Normally, the clinic takes place over the course of one long day with multiple teams of staff members and volunteers building the children’s costumes side-by-side with very few breaks. This year, the clinic took one child or two a day, including Saturdays, starting in September. The one-of-a-kind clinic continued up until the week of Halloween, to ensure all of the children got a turn. Spreading out the clinics helped cut down on visitor traffic and enabled better physical distancing among participants. “2020 has brought lots of changes to the hospital and to our community, and we wanted our kids to be able to still get the happiness from getting their costumes made here,” said Matt Lowell, physical therapist, and creator of the clinic. “Some kids had been planning their costumes since last year, and I think it gave them something to be happy about... and gave us the opportunity to promote safe ways to enjoy Halloween.”

As in years past, news outlets were eager to bring the heart-warming story to their viewers, including a national story on NBC Nightly News. See below for a round-up of media coverage with a look at the 40+ costumes that were built and a few of the patient's stories.

Staff members created the Halloween Wheelchair Costume Clinic in response to feedback from parents that Halloween traditions, such as choosing and making a costume, or going door-to-door trick or treating, pose challenges for children with physical disabilities. Hospital staff members and volunteers do everything in their power at the clinic to make it a level playing field for children in wheelchairs with conditions such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy and neuromuscular disease. The larger-than-life costumes incorporate the child’s wheelchair and have the effect of making the child the center of positive attention, instead of feeling left on the sidelines. The clinic exemplifies the hospital’s wraparound services that go beyond physical needs to meet social and emotional needs. The event is sponsored by Spirit Halloween’s Spirit of Children program, which has raised more than half a million dollars since 2010 through customer donations for the hospital’s child life department.

For more information about the program, contact Matt Lowell at 801-536-3615.

Masi in costume

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