Cash Goeppert’s initial reaction to his fitted Radial Control-car version of a Monster Truck was priceless.
His father Cameron described it as that at Sunday’s unveiling of this special project made possible by Magic Wheelchair and the Character Design class of be.NEXT, a branch of BE.Tech charter high school of the Manteca Unified School District.
“This goes beyond our dreams and imagination,” he said shortly after taking his 8-year-old son with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1 – a condition that affects the nerve cells in his spinal cord – on a short spin in his brand-new blue Monster Truck in the Lathrop High School parking lot.
“He wanted me to go faster and faster,” said Cameron Goeppert, a Stanislaus County firefighter.
Young Cash Goeppert has very limited mobility and is confided to a wheelchair. He draws attention, according to his dad, due to his condition when he’s out with the family shopping at places such as Costco.
But that’s about to change.
“Now he can feel like a superhero (in his Monster Truck),” Cameron Goeppert said.
Magic Wheelchair is a nonprofit organization that helps with the development of constructing epic costumes for children in wheelchairs at no cost to the family.
Scott Myers, who is the be.NEXT instructor at Lathrop High, had a chance encounter at a conference held earlier this year with Jeff Watamura.
Like Myers, Watamura, who is a teacher at El Diamante High in Visalia, deals in the visual arts. He’s also a volunteer with Magic Wheelchair, helping create custom costumes for children in wheelchairs.
Myers brought along Halloween-type character masks made by students in his Video Game Design and Digital arts to that conference. That was enough to draw the attention of Watamura, who introduced him to Magic Wheelchair.
His MUSD class was soon selected by Magic Wheelchair as one of only 40 build teams in the U.S. It so happened that the Goeppert family of Turlock – included was Cash, Cameron and wife Ashley, and 3-year-old son Colton – was within the one-hour driving radius for Myers and company.
“At first, he wanted a pirate ship,” said Myers, referencing the Pirates of the Caribbean movies starring Johnny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow. “Cash then showed us a picture of an RC truck – he wanted to be an RC Monster Truck.”
Added Cameron Goeppert: “That’s his favorite toy.”
Scott Myers and his family – included are his wife, Jennifer, who is also a MUSD be.Tech teacher, and their children, Porter, 11, Joey, 7 and 5-year-old Caden – worked on getting the dimensions of the young boy’s wheelchair in order to build a Monster Truck to scale, borrowing a few techniques as seen on the television show, MythBusters.
Both families developed a bond during this time.
Myers and his class got the green light to begin the project in August, with the six-week building and construction of the Monster Truck taking place in September.
He had five students who stayed after school every Friday afternoon to help out. Altogether, they put in about 150 hours.
They made plastic molds for the body panel and foam installation from a hardware store to create the wheels.
“Real wheels were way too heavy – we’re talking about 100 pounds,” Myers said.
He was able to secure the rights to use Big Foot 4x4x4 Monster Truck logo on to the body, recognizing local business J & J Printing for its donated efforts and support.
The Magic Wheel project also has working lights that operate off AA batteries and quick-release pins that allows the family to quickly assemble and disassemble the panels of the truck. The foam tires have “Cash’s Crusher” inscribed.
Even with the all the work, Myers was still uncertain if the RC truck would fit properly onto Cash’s wheelchair.
“The hard part was not having the wheelchair here,” he said. “Cash lays flat (on his wheelchair) so we had to make sure there were no obstructions. So, no (body) supports or axles.”
Myers and Cameron Goeppert used ratchet tie-down straps to secure the youngster onto his RC truck, which was 100 percent funded by Magic Wheelchair.
Both families were looking forward to spending the rest of the day at the RC track at Funworks in Modesto.
“He’s an awesome kid,” said Cameron of his son Cash. “He’s brought so many people together.”