A firetruck pulled into the Funworks parking lot Sunday afternoon and was still only the second-coolest vehicle there.
The hottest ride? Cash’s Crusher, a Bigfoot-lookalike that’s much smaller than the famous monster truck but much bigger than the remote-control version it’s meant to resemble.
It’s a Halloween costume that fits around 8-year-old Turlock boy Cash Goeppert’s wheelchair, and it’s sure to crush the competition in any costume contest he enters this season.
Cash has spinal muscular atrophy Type 1, a condition that affects the nerve cells in his spinal cord. He can’t walk or sit up without assistance, so gets around in a reclining wheelchair. “Cash cannot eat, talk, move or take a single breath unaided,” according to a February 2017 Sacramento Bee story on the boy.
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A few months ago, his parents, Ashley and Cameron Goeppert, heard about the nonprofit organization Magic Wheelchair, which “builds epic costumes for kiddos in wheelchairs — at no cost to families,” its website says.
They applied to be recipients of a chair costume and, to their good fortune, husband-and-wife Manteca Unified School District teachers Scott and Jennifer Myers were interested in doing a Magic Wheelchair project.
Scott Myers leads the be.next video game design academy on the Lathrop High School campus. It’s part of the district’s be.tech charter high school program, with “be” standing for “boundless education.”
Be.next includes a maker space, Jennifer Myers said, where students work with silicon, foam, latex and other materials to create items including Halloween masks, cosplay armor and more. Her husband was speaking at a STEM conference when another attendee told him about Magic Wheelchair.
Myers signed up to participate, and in August was matched with the Goepperts. He learned that a typical Magic Wheelchair build is eight to 12 weeks, but he, five students and a handful of friends turned around Cash’s Crusher in four and a half.
Myers estimates 200 to 220 man-hours went into creating it, and he contributed about half those hours himself, including work on the truck during a week of vacation.
It meant a lot to him and the five participating students to create something that was about more than schoolwork. “To make something that was real and was going to go out into the world and be his Halloween costume” was special, Myers said.
Cash first got to see his blue and orange monster truck Sunday morning at the be.next academy.
His reaction? “He has facial gestures and he can speak words that if you know him, you can understand,” his mother said. “His eyes lit up really big,” and one side of his mouth turned up in a smile.
“Once they got it hooked up to his wheelchair and dad took him for a spin around the parking lot at the school, he was telling Dad, ‘Go faster, go faster.’ He was really excited about it.”
Because both the Goeppert and Myers families are into remote-control vehicles, they traveled Sunday afternoon from Lathrop over to Funworks, on Coffee Road in Modesto, for some fun at the RC raceway there.
They were joined by family and friends, including some of firefighter and paramedic Cameron Goeppert’s colleagues from the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District. The firefighters, who know a nice ride when they see one, gave Cash’s Crusher their seal of approval. “I like the car,” one leaned in to tell him. “Bigfoot’s pretty awesome, huh?”
To read more on the Goepperts and Magic Wheelchair, click here.