Engineering students help build costumes for children at Mary Free Bed hospital
Several Grand Valley State University engineering students were part of a large volunteer effort to provide custom-made Halloween costumes for several dozen children who are current or former patients at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.
Weeks of preparation culminated October 26 with the fourth annual "Halloween Heroes" parade at the hospital, where community groups, students, patients and their families all showed off the costumes that were specifically designed to work with wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
Jake Stephens is a Grand Valley engineering student who has been involved with the volunteer activity for the past four years, helping organize several building and planning days before the parade.
"I enjoy building and being creative but when you can do it and make a real difference in a child's life, it makes it that much better," Stephens said.
Stephens said most of the time volunteers only build the base when the kids are in for measurements and try to surprise them with the completed costume on parade day.
"Seeing their faces light up and the pure joy is truly amazing and something you won't forget," Stephens said. "It's a lot of work, and we built an incredible 34 costumes this year, but the kids make all of the hard work worth it."
Some of the costumes from this year include:
• Eight-year-old Chase Fuller was DJ Marshmello. Chase, who was paralyzed in a May car accident and came to Mary Free Bed for rehabilitation, began listening to the popular DJ for inspiration during therapy sessions.
• Nate Boersma, 6, whose wheelchair was transformed last year into the Polar Express, decided to stick with the train theme again this year and be James the Red Engine from The Railway Series children’s books. He and his family also volunteered to help make costumes for other kids.
• Molly Malleis, 4, was a firefighter, and her twin brother, Patrick, was a dinosaur. To tie both costumes together, Molly will be a fire truck from Jurassic Park, towing her brother as a T-Rex.
• Alicia Marewski, 7, is a triplet with identical sisters. Her wheelchair was decorated as an ice cream truck, and her sisters will be part of the costume as ice-cream shoppers.
• Alex Mills, 7, was an airline pilot in last year’s Halloween Heroes Parade. This year he was a dragon and Viking from “How to Train Your Dragon.”
For more information on the Grand Valley Engineering program, visit gvsu.edu/engineering.