Warning to the Dark Side: Poe Dameron is going to be patrolling Gretna sidewalks on Halloween in his rad X-Wing.
There will be no mistaking the best pilot in the Resistance for just another kid in costume. Poe — aka Raylan Taylor, age 5 — will be on patrol. And there will be no mistaking his fighter jet for a wheelchair. There will be no seat belts and straps obscuring his costume this year like in past years.
That’s because a Kansas City, Kansas, nonprofit chose the young Jedi for a unique project that outfits wheelchairs and walkers with custom-made Halloween costumes so that the children can fully embody their inner heroes this time of year.
Walkin’ & Rollin’ Costumes has turned wheelchairs into amazing costumes like a princess carriage, a Transformers car and what ought to please many an Omaha NFL fan, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium. The boy inside that costume wears a Patrick Mahomes jersey.
In Raylan’s case, the costume comes from the ever-popular (especially with his dad, Mike) Star Wars franchise. The costume took three months to make. It’s affixed to Raylan’s wheelchair. The boy, who because of a rare genetic disorder cannot walk, does in this costume fly.
Raylan/Poe debuted his costume/X-Wing earlier this month in Kansas City; on Sunday he got to wear/fly it at the southwest Omaha nonprofit that provides respite care, CRCC Omaha. And on Thursday, you better believe that Poe — accompanied by his family, also in Star Wars costumery — will be out in force. Because, obviously, the Force is with them.
Mike is a member of the 501st, a group that takes Star Wars costumes so seriously that the costumes have to meet movie-grade requirements. The 501st marches in parades and appears at causes. Mike plays villain Darth Maul. Jocelyn, Raylan’s mother, has a special pink Stormtrooper mask. And Chase, Raylan’s 12-year-old half-brother, is a Tusken Raider.
Raylan’s X-Wing is no mere contraption. It took three months to design and build. Jocelyn said Walkin’ & Rollin’ Costumes took a lot of measurements and asked questions like: Does Raylan get claustrophobic? (No). Does he move around? (Yes). Does he need his chair reclined? (No).
Raylan was born with Joubert syndrome, a rare and varied disorder in which sufferers share in common a brain malformation that disrupts muscle coordination and balance.
Raylan’s particular genetic mutation means his liver and kidney will fail, and he will need a transplant by the time he’s a teenager. Already the kindergartner is facing stage 1 chronic kidney disease and stage 3 liver fibrosis. He cannot talk. He cannot see much beyond light. He is on a high-protein liquid diet.
Here’s what Raylan can do. He can high-five. He can understand words like “stop.” He’s in kindergarten at Palisades Elementary. He brings joy to his family. He accompanies his Darth Maul father when the 501st is summoned. And now he gets to be the best fighter pilot in space.
Joceyln said early on she mourned the things her son could not do. But then she decided to look at things differently.
“There’s a lot more he could do,” she said, “than we’re even giving him credit for.”