Before Caleb McLelland was even born, he was dignosed with spina bifida (SB). Spina bifida is a congenital disorder of the spine that can cause paralysis in its most severe form, which is what Caleb has. He”s used a wheelchair for his entire life, although a recent surgery has allowed him to be able to stand and move upright with support.
Caleb McLelland. Note the hat.
His mother, Cassie, remembers the dread that came along with that diagnosis. “When I was pregnant, I was terrified,” she says, The picture painted for us was grim at best. It was awful.”
Worrying is natural, of course, but Caleb”s life is anything but grim. Determined not to let his diagnosis hold him back, she created his first wheelchair costume the Halloween Caleb was three. “We thought, why not make his chair part of his costume? He has this set of wheels, let”s use that.” And after the first costume, things took off.
Caleb”s first Halloween costume, age 3.
At 5, he was Mario in his Kart.
Little brother Benjamin, now 5, accompanied Caleb as Luigi
Last year, Caleb went as Dry Bones. It”s a relatively minor Mario character.
Cassie started her blog, Beyond Measure, originally to keep her family updated on Caleb”s health and progress, and soon, she found herself connecting with other parents of kids with SB. She started a second blog called Wheelchair Costumes, where parents can share costume ideas for wheelchair using kids. Wheelchair Costumes is not exclusively for kids with SB, of course, but for any child who uses a wheelchair. (There are plenty of chair costumes for grownups online, too!) She also maintains a close relationship with other parents of children with spina bifida via Facebook.
Recently, Caleb has had surgery that allows him to stand for periods of time, and he is growing and progressing well. He also plays wheelchair basketball There are always challenges for Caleb and his family, but things are bright. “If I had just a glimpse [of the future],” Cassie says, again remembering the fear that came with Caleb”s diagnosis, “I wouldn”t have been so scared.”
When asked what she”d like other people to get out of Caleb”s story, Cassie said, “I”d want people to know that Caleb is so much more than his diagnosis. All kids are. I want people to know that your kid is still a joy. I”m a better person because he”s here. It”s been great, it”s been an honor to be his mom.”