SALT LAKE CITY — Eight-year-old Adrian Paz usually has a smile on his face, but as he was presented Thursday with his specialized wheelchair costume for Salt Lake Comic Con, his grin grew even wider.
“Oh my gosh!” he shouted out as black cloth was pulled off the wheeled cart designed to fit around his wheelchair. “I love it!”
Adrian wheeled over to the “Jurassic Park”-themed costume, resembling a rugged jungle cart being pulled by a harnessed raptor, and ran his hand along the dinosaur’s tail.
“This guy looks so real,” he marveled.
Once the costume had been lowered over his wheelchair, Adrian grabbed the reins and beamed at the gathering crowd, assuring two young girls dressed as princesses, “You can pet him, I don’t mind.”
Adrian’s parents, meanwhile, hung back, letting him soak up the attention.
“He had a really rough year this year. He was in and out of Primary Children’s Hospital, and this year he has had some bully issues at school,” said Chelsey Paz, Adrian’s mother. “To see him literally light up like he did was a great feeling. I’m just speechless.”
Adrian, of Draper, was born with spina bifida, being rushed away within hours of his birth for what would become a series of surgeries through his life, according to his mother. Growing up he has always been outgoing, she said, but being a child in a wheelchair in a sometimes unkind world takes a toll.
“I love seeing him have the confidence to command the crowd and seeing him be comfortable in his own skin in such a public setting,” Paz said. “It’s a great feeling because sometimes you get worried he’s a little insecure being in the wheelchair, but he’s the spotlight.”
Ryan Weimer, one of the founders of the Oregon-based Magic Wheelchair organization, fought emotion as he explained why he pursued the idea.
Three of Weimer’s five children were born with muscular dystrophy. When his youngest son asked for a pirate Halloween costume at age 3, he decided to incorporate the boy’s motorized wheelchair, he explained, constructing a whole pirate ship for him to ride in.
The elaborate costume had an astonishing effect.
“There’s this funky barrier around disabilities,”…