CCM students partner with May We Help to create Halloween Costumes

The project builds specialized costumes for kids with disabilities

Story by CCM Graduate Student Lucy Evans

For children who use wheelchairs, Halloween is a chance to be the envy of every kid in the neighborhood. Students at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) are putting their talents to use outside the theater by building costumes dreamt up by children, and customizing those costumes to fit each child's power chair. The creations, a result of more than 30 hours of work in the CCM Costume Shop, will be on full-display at May We Help’s annual Halloween Festival.

A local organization, May We Help works with a volunteer team of 75 engineers, industrial designers, inventors, welders, woodworkers, seamstresses and doctors, along with occupational and physical therapists. Since 2003, the organization has worked together to provide custom devices to hundreds of people with disabilities every year.

Since 2019, May We Help has connected CCM students to children who use power chairs for the project, a collaboration organized by CCM Costume Technology Professor Regina Truhart. Aside from 2020, when the pandemic put the May We Help’s Halloween Festival on hold, the collaboration has continued every year since.

This year, 13 students from majors including Costume Design and TechnologyStage Management and Acting are working together to build nine unique costumes for kids aged 4-17. This year, the designs include an Aquaman-themed costume – where the child is dressed as the superhero and the wheelchair is made to look like a giant seahorse – along with a Jack-o-Lantern, a manatee and several automobile-inspired creations. One child, whose chair will be outfitted to look like the Ectomobile vehicle from the Ghostbusters films, will be accompanied by an entourage of family members dressed as characters from the franchise.

Emily Mallendick, a sophomore Stage Management student, says that the process helps build skills that she can use beyond the Halloween project. "It’s a lot of analytical thinking ... everyone's wheelchair is different and everyone has different needs," she says. For example, one participant this year has difficulty processing color. While the outside of the costume is full of bright colors, they’ve included a black and white picture of the elaborate decorations on the inside of the construction. According to Mallendick, the team of students has to consider "what is going to make this costume fun for everyone to look at, but most importantly fun for the person [who’s wearing it]."

May We Help’s Halloween Festival, featuring Trick-or-Treating, food and games is free and open to all from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23. The festival takes place at May We Help's 7501 Wooster Pike location.

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.

About UC's College-Conservatory of Music

The University of Cincinnati’s nationally ranked and internationally renowned College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) is a preeminent institution for the performing and media arts. The school’s educational roots date back to 1867, and a solid, visionary instruction has been at its core since that time.

Declared "one of this country’s leading conservatories" by the New York Times, CCM offers nearly 120 possible majors, along with a wide variety of pre-collegiate and post-graduate programs. The synergy created by housing CCM within a comprehensive public university gives the college its unique character and defines its objective: to educate and inspire the whole artist and scholar for positions on the world stage.

CCM believes that diversity, equity, and inclusion are inextricably linked to artistic excellence. The college works to bring out the best in its students, faculty and staff by valuing their unique backgrounds, experiences and perspectives — welcoming and leveraging individual contributions to collaborate, create, innovate and compete in a global society.

Headshot of Lucy Evans

Lucy Evans

CCM Graduate Assistant, Marketing + Communications

Lucy Evans is a master’s student studying Vocal Performance at CCM. She is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, and was recently an Apprentice Artist with the Santa Fe Opera.


Featured image at the top: Students working in CCM's Scene Shop, where they are using their creative expertise and skills to build customized costumes for May We Help’s annual Halloween Festival.

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