Builder's Guide

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Building the Magic

What is a Magic Wheelchair Build Team?


Thank you for your interest in being part of a Magic Wheelchair Build Team. Magic Wheelchair was started in 2014 to create costumes for kids in wheelchairs. The organization is now a nationwide nonprofit organization with volunteers and donors across the world. This handbook offers information, guidance, and a necessary legal disclaimer to help you take advantage of Magic Wheelchair’s resources and to maximize your success. Together we can break down social barriers and give a child in a wheelchair, and his or her family a truly epic experience.   


The Goal

The vision of Magic Wheelchair is to put a smile on the face of every child in a wheelchair. We cannot accomplish this without the many volunteers throughout the country that help us to make this a reality. We hope that you will have a wonderful experience as you help a child and their family experience something truly magical. In addition, we strive to break down social barriers that sometimes exist in our communities. The work you do will help bring people together and leave a lasting impression on all those who are involved.    


Building a Team

It has been our experience that these costumes are impossible without a good team. You will have greater success if you bring people to your team that can help to manage the design, construction, fundraising, and many other aspects that go into making a Magic Wheelchair costume magical. It has been our experience that the following structure is an effective way to build a team. These roles are not concrete and often one person might have overlapping roles and responsibilities.



Team Lead

  • The Team Lead coordinates team efforts to make sure the child in a wheelchair has an incredible experience.

  • Is the contact person for families and Magic Wheelchair organization.

  • Recruits friends and experts as needed to fill a successful build team.

  • Ensures that every aspect of the build is up to Magic Wheelchair standards.

  • Ensures that the project is finished in a timely manner.

  • Lends a hand to all other members of the build team.

  • Empowers each team member to complete their assigned tasks.

  • Will also take on additional roles as needed for the build to be successful.    



  • Each builder is responsible for different aspects of the physical build.

    • Talk to the child for whom you are building. Let him or her help brainstorm costume ideas and be a part of the design process.

    • Use materials that are safe and suitable for wheelchairs and their riders.

    • Take advantage of the Stan Winston School of Character Art to research techniques and materials that will make the best costume.

  • Creates something EPIC, as is expected of a Magic Wheelchair costume. Be creative and shoot for the stars. We want the kids we build for to feel like superstars because that’s what they are. That means the costumes must be superstar quality.

  • We provide training videos and will connect you with experts to help with your build. These resources are provided by the amazing people behind the Stan Winston School of Character Arts.



  • Fundraiser’s duties include soliciting funds in the local community through:

    • direct face to face solicitation of friends and businesses

    • fundraising events

    • set up a crowdfunding website through:

  • Will work with the entire build team to engage in fundraising in their local community. This will help you connect with people in your community and will encourage greater involvement. You can help us accomplish our goal of breaking down barriers and creating connections by enlisting your community to support your local build. Magic Wheelchair will work with your team to set reasonable goals and create a fundraising plan that gets the community involved.  

  • Magic Wheelchair will help your fundraising efforts and, where needed, cover costs of the build. When we all contribute a little we can accomplish great things.

  • Will get approval from Magic Wheelchair before embarking on any fundraising event. This is a creative project so get creative, but we have to ensure that as you use the Magic Wheelchair name, Magic Wheelchair’s nonprofit status is not compromised.



  • Publicity through media and online is a vital part of bringing communities together, so show off your team’s hard work, and, most of all, make the kids in the chairs feel special for the right reasons. The positive attention each child will get for their costume is a welcome change to how they are normally received. Media attention can be intimidating for some, but this is a message and a work that needs to broadcasted throughout our communities.  

  • Most local news organizations will be interested in what you are doing. In addition, bloggers and online media outlets may want to cover the work you are doing. Reach out to them and let them know what you are doing. You will soon have every local news joint knocking on your door and that’s good for business! Getting the word out helps Magic Wheelchair grow and takes us one step closer to our mission of building epic costumes for every child in a wheelchair.

  • Magic wheelchair has a public relations team and a social media team that will help you as needed, but you should have a member of your team who is familiar with the team members and the project to tackle media inquiries and regularly manage your team's social media.



  • We need pictures and videos! We use these to celebrate your build. We want to know more about your team, how you built your costume, and especially about the child you are building for. We also will use your photos and videos for future fundraising, public relations, and to get more children and families interested in having a Magic Wheelchair costume of their own.

  • Check in weekly by posting photos and videos to your album in  the Magic Wheelchair Builder Facebook page.  

  • Occasionally (3-5 times during the build process) prepare a longer blog post with a few photos and descriptions of your team and your build.

  • We want:

    • Lots of pictures of the build in progress

    • Video of different aspects of the build

    • Video time lapse of parts of the build

    • Quality photos and video of the child first seeing and wearing the costume - the big reveal!

    • Videos of interviews with members of your team during the build.

    • Interviews with the child and family before the build

      • What is the child hoping the costume looks like?

      • What does the child want the costume to do?

      • Get to know the child and his family.

    • Videos of interviews with the child and family at the reveal.

  • While some teams have had all the team members contribute to documenting the process, many have found it helpful to get a person on the team solely dedicated to making sure the memories last forever. This frees up other team members to focus on their responsibilities and creates more consistency in the media product.

  • Everyone on the team should assist with documenting the build by taking pictures and/or video to capture monuments throughout the process.  Everyone has a cell phone camera - use it!

  • We can’t stress enough how important it is to document your experience.  Each step along the way is important; from your first meeting with the child, throughout the entire process, to the completion of the costume and the grand reveal! These images, videos, and conversations are huge in helping to tell the story of your epic build. Your images and videos also tell the story of the Magic Wheelchair organization.  They share stories of the families we serve, and they document the smiles we build. Documenting your journey helps to keep us doing what we do. People love to be part of what you are doing and by sharing your adventure you allow them to be a part of that adventure.

Build Standards

Magic Wheelchair encourages builders and designers to employ their most creative abilities to create something fantastic. Magic Wheelchair gives teams extensive latitude to make whatever their hands are capable of. However, the design must have Magic Wheelchair approval before the build-phase begins. This approval is granted liberally and is an opportunity to take advantage of the insight of those that have done this many times before.  


Things to Consider When Designing a Costume

  • Make the costume easy to attach to the wheelchair. This has been a major issue for almost every costume built. Remember that the family will likely need to be able to attach it without your help. Make it as simple as possible. This can be a challenging engineering feat, so feel free to ask for advice and input from those with previous experience.

  • The costume needs to be mobile. Consider where the child will be with his/her costume and how he or she will use it. Will the child need to get through doors and down narrow hallways? Should the costume be compact, or should parts fold-up? Talk with the family to see what activities are planned and how the costume will be used.

  • The costume should not be too heavy. What type of chair will the costume be built on? This is especially important for manual wheelchairs, but should also be a consideration for electric chairs because heavy costumes can be hard to attach, can drain battery life faster, and might be unsafe.

  • Every chair is different, so customize. There is a huge variety of wheelchairs out there. Each chair is generally unique to the needs of the child that uses it. Remember to ask about any special attachments or equipment the child uses. It is common that a chair is outfitted with important features that you will need to work around. In many instances the parents/caregiver will need easy and immediate access to the child at all times.

  • Be smart with resources. Make a plan and stay on budget. Fundraising is a constant hurdle and we do not want insufficient funds to get in the way of creating something truly amazing.  

  • Most importantly - HAVE FUN!


Standard of Conduct Policies

We are a family organization. This means that all members of the build teams need to always conduct themselves above reproach. You represent Magic Wheelchair and should act professionally and respectfully in public and when interacting with families and the community.  


Safety is our first priority. As a build team you should take every precaution to ensure that the costumes are safe. Not only must the costumes be safe for the children wearing it, but do not forget to take consideration for those who will be admiring the costume. Teams must also take precautions to protect themselves during the build. Always read the warning labels of the products and materials used in the process. Use safety equipment and best practices when working with machinery and tools. If you are unsure about safety of design, materials, or practices, please consult with one of our experts. No one associated with Magic Wheelchair is required to perform work that he or she believes is unsafe or that he or she thinks is likely to cause injury or a health risk to themselves or others.


NEVER be one-on-one with a minor. It is Magic Wheelchair’s policy that all interactions with a child or mentally handicapped individual have two or more adults present. This provides both protection for the children/disabled and for the builders. It is an unfortunate reality we live in, but builders should act prudently when working with children and disabled people.  


Required background checks. Any person that will come in direct contact with a minor or that operates in a key position of the Magic Wheelchair organization will be required to undergo a background check. Magic Wheelchair will pay any fee associated with this requirement. Please contact the build team liaison to arrange for those team members that will require a background check.  


Any injuries must be reported immediately. Any injuries must be reported to the build team liaison immediately. Please be safe, but when an accident does occur you need to notify Magic Wheelchair as soon as is practical.


Do not engage in illegal or harassing activities. If there is any question, please contact Magic Wheelchair headquarters or consult a competent attorney.  


Legal Notices, Policies, and Disclaimers

Section 1 – Right to Modify: Magic Wheelchair reserves the right to modify, amend, and/or terminate any policies, procedures, programs, and/or benefits whether or not described in this handbook at any time. Every attempt will be made to inform you of any changes as they occur. However, it is your responsibility to keep current of all Magic Wheelchair policies and procedures, and to review Magic Wheelchair policies and procedures in detail, and to request any clarification needed from the build team liaison or other Magic Wheelchair administrator.


Section 2 – Not an Employment Contract: The volunteer handbook is not a contract of employment. Any individual may voluntarily leave upon proper notice. Also, any individual may be asked to leave Magic Wheelchair at any time for just cause. Any oral or written statements or promises to the contrary are hereby expressly disavowed and should not be relied upon by a prospective or existing volunteer.


Section 3 – Trade Secrets: Magic Wheelchair and its affiliates continually develop Confidential Information. In working with Magic Wheelchair, build teams/volunteers may be exposed to or even help create Confidential Information. Such Confidential Information is and shall remain the sole and exclusive property of Magic Wheelchair the Company. Volunteers will comply with the policies and procedures of the Company and its Subsidiaries for protecting Confidential Information. Build Teams/Volunteers are not allowed, directly or indirectly, to use for their own benefit or gain, or to assist others in the application of, or disclose any Confidential Information. These limitations apply after volunteer service has been discontinued.


Build Teams/Volunteers are advised that all discoveries, concepts, ideas, inventions, innovations, improvements, developments, methods, designs, analyses, drawings, reports, patent applications, copyrightable work and mask work (whether or not including any Confidential Information), and all registrations or applications related thereto. All other proprietary information and all similar or related information (whether or not patentable) that relate to Magic Wheelchair or any of its affiliates actual or anticipated business, research and development or existing or future products or services and that are conceived, developed or made by build teams/volunteers (whether alone or jointly with others) while in the service of and supported by Magic Wheelchair, belong to Magic Wheelchair.


Section 4 – No Authority to Contract: Build Teams and Volunteers do not have actual or apparent authority to bind or in any way contract on behalf of Magic Wheelchair. Magic Wheelchair reserves the right to grant permission to build teams and/or volunteers on a case by case basis and only on an as-needed basis. If a build team member or volunteer needs to enter a contract or bind the organization, they should contact the build team liaison or another administrator at Magic Wheelchair.  


Section 5 – Reimbursement Policy: Expenses may be reimbursed if a build team/volunteer paid the expense from their personal funds. However, Magic Wheelchair prefers that any expenses are paid directly by Magic Wheelchair to the Vendor and not the volunteer whenever possible. This policy establishes the three components required for reimbursement of allowable expenses:

  1. Must be preapproved by Magic Wheelchair

  2. Must be commensurate with a project plan approved by Magic Wheelchair

  3. Must be documented, i.e. receipt, invoice, etc…


Section 6 – Open Door Policy: If at anytime you feel that someone is acting illegally, unethically, or discriminatorily in anyway, Magic Wheelchair’s board of directors has an “open door policy.” This means that you can reach out to any board member at any time for issues listed above. Board Members will maintain confidentiality as appropriate actions are then taken. You may remain anonymous if you request.  

Capture your “magic moments” and share them with the Magic Wheelchair Community!


Here’s how:

1.     Take photos and videos of your build experience using your smartphone.

·      TIP: hold your phone horizontally, not vertically.

2.     Share the photos & videos with other build teams by posting them to your team’s album in the Facebook Builders Group

· We will create an album just for your local build team at:

·      Upload your photos and videos to the album. Feel free to mark them private so that only administrators can see them, or upload with the default settings so that all build groups can see them.

3.     Magic Wheelchair might share your photos & videos with followers on social media, compile them into a showcase reel, use them for PR, etc. Therefore, please try to ensure that:

·      There are no visible brand logos in the shot (e.g., “Craftsman Tools” logo)

·   There are no children under 13 years of age in the shot, unless you have received written or verbal consent from the parent.


Spread the message via Social Media

Feel free to share your experience with your friends on social media. Kindly tag Magic Wheelchair in your posts - below are the tags to use on each platform:

-       Facebook: @magicwheelchair

-       Twitter: @magicwheelchair or #magicwheelchair

-       Instagram: @magicwheelchair or #magicwheelchair