When you love someone, you want everybody else to be able to see them as you do; to appreciate their beauty, personality, fun loving nature, or whatever other characteristics you admire. This is especially true of the love you feel for your children. Not only do you want others to love them because you do, but you want others to love them so that they are surrounded by that love and grow up in its warm embrace. It can be devastating to find out that somebody else can’t see how wonderful your child is and particularly so when the other person is unable to see the child for who s/he is because of a physical difference.

It was this desire to help others look past a physical difference that inspired father Ryan Weimer to make a particularly fantastic costume for his three-year-old son Keaton, who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. The costume incorporates Keaton’s wheelchair and used it to build a mobile boat around the child’s wheelchair. The reaction to the costume was immediate, as Weimer explained:

“People seemed to look past his ‘disability;’ they looked past his wheelchair and saw this cool kiddo cruising around in a pirate ship.  Where normally other kids who didn’t know Keaton would stare from a distance, this costume created an immediate and intense level of inclusion. Kiddos swarmed him in his pirate ship costume! That experience was amazing for all of us. As a dad, I looked with tears in my eyes as I finally was able to see people looking at my son like I do.”

It was in that moment that Weimer had an flash of inspiration: there are all kinds of children out there who could benefit from these kinds of amazing costumes that he had created for Keaton. This led to the development of the non-profit Magic Wheelchair with the goal of, “building epic costumes for kiddos in wheelchairs – at no cost to families.” That’s an idea that’s hard not to love and the folks on the Gigaprize judging panel were no exception.

re:3D is a company that produces and sells Gigabot 3D printers, capable of printing at enormous sizes, with build volumes starting at about eight cubic feet — their printers create objects up to 30 times larger than typical desktop 3D printers. So it comes as no surprise that they are no strangers to thinking big. The company is also devoted to using the power of 3D printing for good. Each year for the past three years they have reviewed numerous applications from a variety of compelling contenders for the next winner of a free Gigabot 3D printer. This printer will help provide even more awesome costumes for kids in wheelchairs, such as the dinosaur and fighter plane that the organization has already created.

And the awesomeness just keeps on coming, as 3D printing is the easiest way to fabricate these kinds of getups. This past year they created a series of Justice League inspired wheelchair costumes and this year they are planning on working with a Star Wars theme.

But the organization is bigger then just Weimer, it’s a network of DIYers and tinkerers who use plans and resources provided by Magic Wheelchair to help spread the idea wherever it needs to be. That’s another benefit of 3D printing: the files can be disseminated and used wherever there is access to a machine. Weimer already has big plans for his new printer:

“This [3d printer] allows us to do so many things in house: from building kits, to making builds easier, to being able to do really specific detailed pieces and duplicating them for future builds. It really adds to that epic quality that we can kick out. 3D printers are quickly becoming commonplace in fabrication and special effects, so it’s going to be incredible having such an amazing printer in our hands. We have already had some 3D artists reach out to help, and we have a solid connection with Pixologic and the Zbrush community. Sky’s really the limit here!”

This group helped a couple of kids who some might have seen as ‘just’ disabled children not only participate in Halloween, but actually be dragon riders. In fact, they get to do some things that kids without wheelchairs won’t, and turning the table a bit gives both sides an opportunity for the development of empathy, something sorely needed. It’s wonderful to see such an impactful organization get the recognition they deserve and get a helping hand making kids with differences get positive attention for who they are in such a magical way.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

[Source/Images: re:3D]

 

 

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