The world of cosplay never ceases to surprise and amaze, and does so by giving the community a unique outlet for its passions. But more importantly, cosplay gives a voice and stage to those who; outside of the cosplay world, may feel limited in their capabilities. Where the real world may fall short of providing support and opportunity for self-expression and belonging, the world of cosplay welcomes all forms of expression and love for the art – no matter what shape or size or vehicle that art may come in, thereby inspiring the community to further open its arms to creativity and acceptance. A great beacon of light for this type of creativity was sparked by a loving father, whose only wish for his son was to know and experience the joy of cosplaying. The one caveat: his son lives his life in a wheelchair. Challenge accepted.
Earlier this year, a popular cosplay build gained notoriety in the cosplay community. A boy was dressed as Ant-Man, riding his faithful ant-steed Ant-tony, with Ant-tony being built as part of the boy’s wheelchair. This cosplayer’s name is Reese Davis, and the man behind his brilliantly creative build is his father, Lon.
Lon Davis is a marketing manager by day, but a cosplay build innovator by night. Lon began his cosplay building journey when Reese was only three years old. “[Reese] was really into the movie ‘Wall-E’ at the time and wanted to be him for Halloween. I knew I couldn’t buy a costume that would work with his wheelchair, so I decided to build it from scratch. I used an old computer box to start, and built working arms that Reese could control from within the costumer. He was able to drive his chair and control everything from inside the costume and he loved it,” Lon remembers fondly. Little did Lon know, Wall-E had only sparked a fire in both him and his son Reese.
The following Halloween, Lon built Reese a costume of “The Claw” machine from Toy Story.
Each build became more unique and complex, making Reese’s costumes a hit, but also showing Lon that he had found a unique way to help others. By expanding his reach and making these builds for other children with special needs; who live their lives in wheelchairs or walkers, he is giving these children the same opportunity he gave Reese at just 3 years old: to experience the joys of cosplaying. Lon takes it a step further, explaining, “I like to let people see that there is a wheelchair or walker in there. It helps make the child feel special to their own individuality and is what makes their cosplay epic.”
Some of the builds have taken Lon over hundreds of hours and days to complete, but for Lon, he sees the reward immediately in the lives he impacts. As he recalls,
“I was contacted last year by the parents of a 6-year old girl, who had just received her first wheelchair. She had received a diagnosis that had shattered her world. The parents told me that she was having a hard time with Halloween coming up, and she wasn't very excited about going trick or treating in her new wheelchair. We started talking through email and she began looking at the sketches on our website of all the different types of costumes we could build. She really liked the Cinderella coach on the site, but she said she also really liked peacocks, so she was stuck on which costume she would like to have us make. I offered to design a custom Peacock Princess costume for her. She was very excited with that idea. So we started working on the designs and I would send the sketches to her parents. The girl loved the sketches and was beginning to get more excited about Halloween. The parents told me she would have them print out the photos and the sketches and she would look at them all the time, even had them next to her bed to look at every night before going to bed. We had one of our Volunteer Costume builds and had about 30 volunteers show up to help build 6 costumes, with the Peacock Princess costume being one of them. We started assembling everything on a chair similar to hers and seeing how it was all coming together. When we completed the costume, I made a video on our YouTube page showing how all the parts will attach on the chair and gave step by step instructions. I then shipped everything to them. When the costume arrived, she couldn't open the boxes fast enough. The parents said she was screaming with glee with every piece coming out of the box. They assembled it to the chair and she wore the custom outfit we made for her. She ended up winning a local costume contest where she lived and told us it was the best costume she has ever had. The parents told us, "You took what was going to be a difficult 1st Halloween in a wheelchair into a dream. We can never thank you enough!" That is my proudest moment since we started Walkin' & Rollin' Costumes. That sums up why we do what we do.”
Lon makes sure all of his builds are well shown and include instructions for all the parents and family members who wish to participate in build their young loved ones’ cosplay. He gave us some words of advice on cosplay building and the cosplay community before our interview ended: “Never give up and don’t hesitate to ask for help. I have been amazed at the amount of help and advice cosplayers give. Without anything to base it on, I had the incorrect impression that many cosplayers were very protective of how they built their amazing costumes and wouldn’t want to share that information. It was the exact opposite. The cosplay community has been the most open and sharing community I have ever worked with. They all want to help people succeed. It has been an amazing group of people to be associated with; I have never met a cosplayer that wasn’t willing the share advice for any help I might need.”
You can find out more about Lon & Reese’s adventures and support their cause at www.walkinrollin.org. They’re also on social media @WalkinNRollin.