5-year-old with terminal illness receives custom wheelchair costume for Halloween

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It took two months, countless hours in her basement workshop and of course a whole lot of TLC thrown into the project, and Bonnie Regan says it was all so worth it.  

Last Wednesday, Regan unveiled her creation -- an adorable pink and purple Minnie Mouse-themed costume accessory to go with 5-year-old Riley Marquis's wheelchair -- just in time for Halloween.  

The Derry, New Hampshire child is living with a terminal illness known as Leigh's Syndrome, a severe neurological disorder that causes progressive degeneration of motor functions.

"She wasn't supposed to live past 2, but she's 5 now and is rarely without a smile on her face," Regan said.

Last year, the 27-year-old, who works as a user experience designer, signed up as a volunteer for the non-profit Magic Wheelchair. 

"I've always loved making Halloween costumes and I have a background in design, so being able to use my hobby for something good was a no brainer," she said.

Last summer, Magic Wheelchair matched up Regan with Riley. The designer got to meet the little girl and her family so she could learn about what the child's physical needs are, as well as what she's into.

"Each costume is 100% custom made for the child, so we're able to accommodate any special needs they have," Regan explained.

It was clear that the little girl is a huge fan of Minnie Mouse, so that's the direction Regan took, and she got to work. 

"For kids like Riley, they're often defined by their wheelchair. Magic Wheelchair is all about challenging that, and making the child the star of the show," the designer said. 

With help from her husband and a few other volunteers, she used her free time over about two months to put together Riley's costume, which was constructed almost entirely out of rigid insulation foam. 

Regan acknowledged it was a huge task, but the pay-off was priceless.

"The best part of the whole process was, of course, the look on her face when she saw the costume!" Regan said. "Her face just lit up as soon as she got to sit in it," she added.

Little Riley, aka Minnie Mouse, is now all set and ready to join other kids for some trick-or-treating fun in her decked out wheelchair. 

"That's really what this is all about," Regan said. "It's a way to give these deserving kids and their families a totally positive experience."


This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.