Dad builds Snowbird jet Halloween costume for son with complex special needs
Tracey and her son Jackson are preparing for their family’s favourite time of the year.
“It’s better than Christmas,” Tracey says with a smile.
Jackson started celebrating as a baby, before dressing up as a monkey for his second Halloween. (He was Curious George. His father, Chad, was The Man with the Yellow Hat).
Around this time, Tracey started worrying it was more than her son’s costume that was curious.
“He was very floppy,” Tracey says. “I took him to the doctor and said, ‘He doesn’t look at me. I think he has autism.’”
Tracey was right. And eventually, Jackson was diagnosed with a rare and complex collection of disorders, including cerebral palsy.
“In the beginning it was, ‘We’re never going to be able to do this,’” Tracey recalls. “We’re never going to be able to do that.”
How do you trick or treat, they wondered, if you can’t walk or talk?
“We can dress him up in the wheelchair and go door to door,” Tracey says. “But that’s not fun.”
So instead of getting down, Chad found a way to make their son’s third Halloween feel up. Despite having no prior building experience, he made a mobile version of the balloon house from Pixar’s “Up.” Jackson sat inside, dressed as the movie’s old man.
“I had no idea I had this creativity in me,” Chad says. “I had no idea I could this until I had to.”
When Jackson was four, he was into Scooby-Doo, so Chad built a replica of the cartoon dog’s van, the Mystery Machine, so his son could travel door-to-door and load up on Scooby snacks.
“It’s love,” Chad smiles. “It’s definitely a labour of love.”
When Jackson was seven, his costume was definitely an expression of gratitude too. Chad built an ambulance with multiple flashing lights and a bluetooth speaker playing health-care themed songs, to thank all the first responders who had arrived to save their boy.
“I call them floats,” Tracey smiles, describing Chad’s increasingly elaborate creations. “They’re not really costumes. They’re floats.”
However you describe them, Chad spends months creating them from scratch with no plans.
This year, for the first time, Jackson was able to help build some sections.
“My God, he has soared!” Tracey smiles with pride. “(Jackson) has taken off!”
This year, the 10-year-old couldn’t be a more perfect pilot for his dad’s most complex costume yet.
It’s a “Top Gun”-playing (from a Bluetooth speaker), engine-blazing (from a smoke-machine in the tail), Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbird jet.
After they help Jackson into the cockpit and “Danger Zone” starts playing, Jackson can’t contain his enthusiasm.
“It’s an experience I hope he’ll never forget,” Chad says.
During these joyful moments, Tracey reflects on her relationship with Chad.
“When you get married, you know what your boyfriend is going to be as a husband,” Tracey starts saying. “But when you have a child…”
When you have a child you have no idea how aerodynamic a dad they’ll be. But with Chad as her co-pilot, Tracey says there’s no doubt that this Halloween Jackson’s joy will reach new heights.