Caiden Whitmarsh, 6, Kasey Iles, 8, and Will Barkoskie, 9, lined their wheelchairs up in front of the RS&H Jacksonville office Thursday, Oct.27, each dressed up in their new costumes for Halloween, complete with wide eyes and wider smiles.
Their costumes were about to get a lot more expansive.
Caiden, already dressed like a champion Pokémon player, would soon have a battlefield flanked by Pokémon characters locked onto his chair. Kasey, outfitted as Disney princess Rapunzel, had a tower window built around her decorated with moss, flowers, a long pink braid, and a cameo from Pascal the Frog on the window sill.
Will lowered his Darth Vader mask and saw his chair converted into a Star Wars TIE fighter, complete with a Florida license plate that read “VADER.” He raised his mask to take a closer look, his face lighting up when a Storm Trooper walked out.
“Storm Trooper, you need to return to our base,” Will beamed. “Have a safe journey.”
Caiden, Kasey, and Will are part of the Jacksonville’s Independent Living Resource Center (ILRC) family, which aims to empower people with disabilities to live independent, self-empowered lives. The ILRC caught the interest of RS&H associates Brandon Pourch and David Mantia last year after Pourch sought to put his architect skills to work for children with disabilities.
“I saw a story online of a similar program and I thought, ‘hey, I can do this,’ and I thought a lot of my coworkers would enjoy building these, too,” said Pourch, an architect with the firm.
Pourch was right. As Halloween approached, more and more RS&H staff volunteered to help on the three projects, each made out of lightweight foam and chiseled to look more like scaled models than simple accessories.
“I probably have 20 hours in on the TIE fighter,” said Mantia, a project manager. “It’s been a great satisfaction. I got to work with my son and family on this, and it’s been a really fun project for all of us.”
Fun was the name of the game for ILRC team that helped organize the event. The group serves five counties in Northeast Florida and helps about 1,300 individuals every year set and achieve their goals for independence. On Thursday, independence meant Halloween costumes good enough to warrant some extra candy.
“We’re floored by all of this,” said ILRC Executive Director Tyler Morris. “It’s always exciting for the kids to do something fun – and RS&H has given them a big way to celebrate.”