CCM students create costumes for May We Help's Halloween Festival

The project connects CCM students to children with disabilities who need customized costumes

Theatre Design and Production students from UC’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) are using their creative expertise and skills to build customized costumes for May We Help’s annual Halloween Festival. The charity organization connected CCM’s students to children with disabilities who need specialized costumes built to fit their power chairs.

CCM Theatre Design and Production students are using their creative expertise and skills to build customized costumes for May We Help’s annual Halloween Festival.

CCM Theatre Design and Production students are using their creative expertise and skills to build customized costumes for May We Help’s annual Halloween Festival.

Cincinnati news station Local 12 WKRC-TV visited CCM's costume shop to feature the collaboration.  View Local 12's coverage.

May We Help provides unique and critical services that help individuals with disabilities achieve independence or pursue their passions. The charity organization’s team of engineers, industrial designers, inventors, welders, woodworkers, seamstresses, doctors, occupational and physical therapists combine their skill sets to design, build and deliver custom devices at no cost to hundreds of clients every year.

“This year the CCM students will be creating 11 costumes for children in wheelchairs,” May We Help Program Director Brianne Wilkerson says. “The idea is that the students will transform the child's wheelchair into the costume of his/her dreams and make them the envy of every kid on the block! This collaboration is a win-win for everyone — the students, May We Help, and of course the costume recipients!”

The collaboration began in fall 2019 with CCM Costume Technology Professor Regina Truhart. Her husband had a spinal cord injury, which resulted in him needing a wheelchair. Truhart became his caregiver and heard about May We Help from other caregivers while her husband was in physical therapy.

CCM Theatre Design and Production students are using their creative expertise and skills to build customized costumes for May We Help’s annual Halloween Festival.

CCM Theatre Design and Production students are using their creative expertise and skills to build customized costumes for May We Help’s annual Halloween Festival.

CCM Theatre Design and Production students are using their creative expertise and skills to build customized costumes for May We Help’s annual Halloween Festival.

CCM Theatre Design and Production students are using their creative expertise and skills to build customized costumes for May We Help’s annual Halloween Festival.

CCM Theatre Design and Production students are using their creative expertise and skills to build customized costumes for May We Help’s annual Halloween Festival.

CCM Theatre Design and Production students are using their creative expertise and skills to build customized costumes for May We Help’s annual Halloween Festival.

A group of students created costumes for the 2019 Halloween Festival, but the collaboration was put on hold due to COVID in 2020. This year’s project involves more than 20 CCM students from a variety of majors including Stage Design, Props and Scenic Art; Stage Management, Costume Design and Technology, Sound Design and Technology, Technical Production and Musical Theatre. They are volunteering 30+ hours to create the costumes, balancing this work around their class schedules and CCM’s upcoming plays, musicals and opera productions.

The children and their families have requested a variety of costumes. One family picked ocean theme costumes — the youngest, who is in the wheelchair, will be transformed into a mermaid and the older siblings will be sharks. Other costumes include a dragon, a princess and even a UPS truck.

CCM students are designing and building the costumes inside and out — meaning there will be special elements inside the creations for the children to enjoy. Some children love sparkly lights or sounds, while others love textures. The student designers’ goal is to create costumes that feature the children’s favorite things.

CCM Theatre Design and Production students are using their creative expertise and skills to build customized costumes for May We Help’s annual Halloween Festival.

CCM Theatre Design and Production students are using their creative expertise and skills to build customized costumes for May We Help’s annual Halloween Festival.

Truhart has been impressed with how CCM students have problem-solved to ensure costumes are visually pleasing, functional and comfortable. For example, one student determined that a zipper placed on the center back of a princess dress would be too scratchy rubbing on a child’s back when they sit in a wheelchair, so the student placed the zipper in the front to make the costume more comfortable. Another student took the time to paint a picture on the inside of a wheelchair castle costume so the child sitting in the wheelchair could actually see it.

“Students have the opportunity to use their technical skills to create real life solutions, and they learn how good it feels to use those skill sets to help others,” Wilkerson says. “They learn about volunteerism and gain an understanding and empathy for people with disabilities.”

May We Help’s annual Halloween Festival is from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, at 7501 Wooster Pike, Cincinnati, Ohio 45227. Admission is free and open to all. Costumes are encouraged for the outdoor festivities (weather permitting), which includes trick or treating, magic tricks, balloon animals, carnival games and prizes. Learn more about May We Help’s Halloween Festival.

About May We Help

Sometimes, a device is all that stands in the way of an individual with a disability achieving independence or pursuing their passion. And when that device is not available in the marketplace, that’s when May We Help’s team of volunteer engineers, industrial designers, inventors, welders, seamstresses, doctors and therapists step in. They design, build and deliver one-of-a-kind custom devices at no cost to the recipient. To learn more, please visit May We Help’s website www.maywehelp.org.

About CCM Theatre Design and Production

CCM’s Department of Theatre Design and Production (TD&P) offers Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts with specialization in the following areas:

The Theatre Design and Production program features cutting-edge facilities and technology, with:

  • 8,500 square foot scene shop
  • 3,000 square foot costume shop
  • Wig, make-up and prosthetics studios
  • Three different production venues
  • 800 square foot light lab

Learn more at ccm.uc.edu/tdp.


Featured image at the top: CCM Theatre Design and Production students create Halloween costumes for May We Help.