West Michigan Aviation Academy teacher Andrew Abissi has a unique Halloween tradition: each year, his engineering students help him build complex cardboard costumes based on “Transformers” characters.
This year, he and his class did something different and built a costume for the son of a friend, 5-year-old Kingston Wilson, who was born with a rare but severe condition called spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).
The disorder caused all of Kingston’s muscles to deteriorate when he was nine months old, but thanks to medication and lots of physical therapy, Abissi said Kingtson is doing well five years into his life.
“Kingston has progressed tremendously over the past couple of years,” Abissi said. “He has become strong enough that he can push himself in his wheelchair. A couple of years ago, we would have to surround Kingston with pillows, and he would flop over without warning. He has persevered and made inspiring gains.”
When he grows up, Kingston said he wants to become a police officer. To help bring that dream to life this Halloween, Abissi and his students used their skills to transform the child’s wheelchair into a police cruiser.
“Kingston’s costume (is) built with light and sturdy insulation boards and PVC,” Abissi said. “We (added) LEDs for headlights and a steering wheel to help (him) feel like he is driving his own police car. Everything (snaps) into place, so the costume can be easily removed and his mom can still push him around.”
Abissi said he hopes the story of Kingston and his costume will not only help show his students the impact their work can have on their community, but also that it will raise awareness about SMA.
To learn more about the disease and donate to research for treatments and cures, visit smafoundation.org.