Firefly loves family participation all year round, but at this time of year we especially love Halloween family participation.
Meet the ultimate Halloween participation family.
Introducing Jason, Casey, Dylan (11) and Tucker (13): the Halloween Hursts.
Every year, the Hursts take Statesboro, Georgia by storm with their amazing Halloween costumes. And the centrepiece of every costume is Tucker’s wheelchair. Tucker has a rare genetic disorder called Hunter Syndrome.
We spoke to his dad, Jason, to find out how and why the Hursts do what they do.
Firefly: Hi Jason, tell us about your family costumes.
Jason: Well, Tucker‘s not exactly immobile; he can get around if he has a hand to hold but he gets winded real easy, so for trick or treating he can’t do it to the full extent and we have to keep him in the wheelchair. So we always try to do something with his wheelchair and then the family does a theme around his theme.
Firefly: We saw this year’s big reveal, The Anchorman theme, it’s great! How long did that take to put together?
Jason: Not as long as last year’s. All in all, probably about a month to find all the different pieces of everybody’s costumes. We try to find them any way we can and try not to spend too much, so there’s a lot of thrift shops and goodwill and this and that.
Last year’s, the Wizard of Oz theme, took us about two-and-a-half months just making that hot air balloon. I used PVC pipe and a lot of rope and twine, paint, hot glue and a very large beachball and built a big old hot air balloon. And then I used twine to anchor it at certain points on the chair so it actually looked like it was hovering, it actually shook and wobbled so it looked like he was hovering on the ground.
Firefly: We hope that’s not real whiskey in Tucker’s glass?
Jason: Haha, no that’s just sweet tea in the photo!
Firefly: And Dylan chose this year’s theme, right?
Jason: Yeah, because last year he was a really good sport. Of course, no ten-year-old wants to dress up as the Tin Man, so we let him pick the theme this year to kind of thank him for being so supportive last year. He’s an amazing kid.
Firefly: So what are the plans for this year, are you going trick-or-treating?
Jason: Yeah, we’re in a college town, so every year there’s a celebration at the Greek row where the fraternities and sororities are, and there are some events around town we will go to.
Firefly: What about costume competitions?
Jason: We actually don’t enter many competitions, just because we don’t want to rob some little kid who is really excited about maybe winning after we put all that time and work into the costumes. We want other kids to experience Halloween too and not just take over the town with our costumes.
Firefly: Why Halloween, rather than any other event?
Jason: Halloween’s definitely one of our favourite holidays.
It’s fun, we like the challenge, it’s a nice escape.
As a special needs family, of course, if you go out there are going to be plenty of occasions when you see a lack of support and a lack of understanding and a lot of weird looks. But Halloween is one of those occasions where, if we come together as a family and work on these costumes and come up with a really fun idea, we go out and we’re a big hit.
People come running up to us, want to take pictures, say how much they love it and they are all talking to Tucker and being really sweet to him.
So it’s such a positive experience for us to go out each year and be popular and embraced rather than, potentially, having a conflict with somebody because they’re not understanding of our situation. It’s definitely a big release for us.
Firefly: I wonder whether there’s some part of it where, because everybody looks different at Halloween when they’re dressed up, the costume kind of breaks the ice for a child with a disability and initiates contact with other people?
Jason: Yeah, one of the biggest difficulties for us is because people will see him in his wheelchair and give us a wide berth, which is good in a way because you need extra space when you’re trying to get a wheelchair around.
But you also get very concerned looks where people look worried about his health and feel sorry for him, or you get some, especially little kids who are just confused, who will do the 5-minute stare at our child.
We’ve gotten very used to that.
But at Halloween, everybody knows it’s about kids and fun and candy so they see that part of him first and forget he’s disabled.
They either think it’s cool what we’ve done with his chair or they don’t even notice it and they just treat him like every other kid.
What more could any kid ask for?
Huge thanks to Jason for taking the time to talk to us. We’re already looking forward to next year’s costume.