VCU School of Dentistry students create magic Halloween costume

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Chloey Henry has had a love for sea turtles ever since she visited an aquarium where a sea turtle swam up to her and followed her every move behind the glass. She was mesmerized. 

“I think it could tell that she was different from the other kids,” said Sarah Henry, Chloey’s mom.

Chloey has Rett Syndrome, a genetic neurological and developmental disorder that affects the way the brain develops, which prevents her from walking or talking.

When students from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry partnered with the nonprofit organization, Magic Wheelchair, to create a special Halloween costume for Chloey, a sea turtle was the obvious choice. 

The students spent four weeks building a life-sized costume to fit around Chloey’s wheelchair made to look like a mermaid riding a sea turtle. It took a lot of time, pvc pipe and upholstery foam, but it was worth it to see her eyes light up at the costume reveal Oct. 29.

Visible from the waist up, Chloey accessorized her shimmering purple mermaid tail with a tiara and a blue and purple wig, as she took her first ride in her completed “magic” costume in front of the students, family and friends.

Ryan Weimer, the brother of fourth-year School of Dentistry student Travis Weimer, founded Magic Wheelchair after making “the biggest and baddest” Halloween costumes he could for his sons with spinal muscular atrophy. Once news of these costumes spread, he began receiving requests from parents all over the world asking him to transform their child’s wheelchair into “magic.” In 2015, Ryan and his wife, Lana, created Magic Wheelchair to “put a smile on the face of every child in a wheelchair.”

The organization funded Chloey’s sea turtle costume and the students also contributed through a bake sale and School of Dentistry alumni donations.

“We got lucky,” said Henry. “I’m so happy for her and we’re just over the moon about this entire process.”

The Henrys plan to make good use of the costume with the entire family getting in on the mermaid-themed fun next year.


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