Eight-year-old Harrison Mylowe has cerebral palsy, but he doesn’t let that stop him from enjoying Halloween as much as other children.
Mylowe, who lives in Hopewell with his family and attends Stony Brook Elementary School, dresses up in a unique Halloween costume each year that is designed specifically to accommodate his wheelchair. Mylowe’s family and aides help create the costume.
The idea first came to Mylowe’s parents, Carolyn and Nick, five years ago during Hurricane Sandy, when Mylowe was 5 years old. He wanted to dress up as a mail carrier. Since the family’s power was out, they didn’t have much to do, and so Carolyn and Nick made the costume out of a cardboard box and built a truck around his walker, Carolyn said.
For the first two years, the costumes were built out of cardboard and only took a couple of hours to create. However, once the costumes started to grow in size and scope, Nick said, they took a couple of weekends to complete.
The Mylowes face their fair share of obstacles when creating these costumes each year.
“One of the obstacles is making sure that the costume is maneuverable with the wheelchair in it, because he’s trick-or-treating so we’ve got to go up and down curves and on sidewalks,” Nick said. “It also goes to the school parades, so it has to be small enough to move down the hallways and for us to push it easily without running into anything large.”
Despite these limitations, the Mylowes have come up with some unique costumes throughout the years, as Nick is “very talented, and I’m somewhat crafty and creative,” Carolyn said. In previous years, Harrison has dressed up as a firefighter in a truck, an ice cream truck, a UPS truck and a garbage truck. The costumes add to Harrison’s already enjoyable Halloween experience; according to his mom, he is “a chocoholic.”
Along with his parents, Mylowe’s 4-year-old sister Adelaide lends a hand in creating the costumes.
“She helps us paint the decorations. His sister loves [making the costumes] and sometime she even rides on the back of the trucks,” Carolyn said.
The appeal of these costumes is heightened by the effort from Harrison’s preschool aide, Debbie Burd. “When he was a mail carrier, she was a letter,” Carolyn, a nurse practitioner, said. “When he was a UPS truck, she was a package, and when he was Mr. Softee, she was ice cream cone. She even handed out ice cream.
“Last year, when he was a firefighter, his aide at school dressed up as a dalmatian to go along with it, which was great,” she added. Mylowe’s current aide is Mike Saraison.
In fact, last year’s celebrations were special for Nick, a technology education teacher at Montgomery High School. “Last year, word spread around that Harrison was dressing up as a firefighter,” he said. “My wife is friends with a local firefighter down in Titusville, so her and two other paid full-time firefighters in the township decided that they would go see Harrison in the school parade.
“When I got there, I noticed that one of my old students, who is now a full time firefighter, was there, and he came when he noticed the last name Mylowe because he know it’d be me and my son. So it was very moving to see an old student of mine supporting,” he said.
Other than the school parade, Mylowe and his costume occasionally enter and even win some competitions. Once, he won a pizzeria’s costume contest and received a gift card.
After trick-or-treating in various neighbourhoods around Hopewell and collecting some of his favorite candy, like Twix, Mylowe and his family donate the costumes to other special needs children. Carolyn advertises the costumes on Facebook pages for families with special needs children, and she makes sure to mention the type of wheelchair they have in order to find a good fit.
“Plus, we want somebody else to have the opportunity,” she said. “Harrison becomes somewhat of a local celebrity by using them and we want other kids, who maybe don’t have the handiest dad in the world, to be able to have the same experience.” Usually, the costumes are donated to families around New Jersey. The garbage truck costume was donated to the Hopewell Valley Safety Town program.
Mylowe added his own perspective on the value of donating, mentioning that he wants others with special needs to enjoy Halloween as much as he does. “My parents can advertise them to the community and it’s a great experience for me,” he said.
Mylowe plays baseball with the Miracle League and participates in Club Scouts. He also likes to swim and spend time with his family.
The Mylowes already have some ideas of what sort of costumes they want to make in the future. “We’ve talked about doing a school bus, the tram car from Wildwood and an ambulance,” Carolyn said.
Overall, the Mylowes enjoy the experience of creating and donating these unique Halloween costumes.“It gives him a lot of pride. He’s so different in many ways and he’s in a mainstream school, so it’s really cool to get recognized and to be pretty awesome,” Carolyn said.
“As long as he feels he can be part of Halloween like every other child, that’s my [goal],” Nick said. “I want him to enjoy the night just as every other kid.”
Mylowe himself agrees.
“It feels good to dress up,” he said. “I thought I’d never get to do something like this, and Mom and Dad have been very helpful.”