Caleb and Cassie McLelland
10/16/2014 AT 03:30 PM EDT
10/16/2014 AT 03:00 PM EDT
Halloween may be the event
most strongly associated with October, but for Cassie and Glenn McLelland's son Caleb
, the month has another kind of resonance: It's National Spina Bifida Awareness Month
Cassie McLelland was 18 weeks pregnant when she learned Caleb would be born with spina bifida. But, as she told the Huffington Post
, "If I had just known how amazing Caleb would be, I wouldn't have been so scared. That's the message I would want to share with anyone facing this same situation."
McLelland started dressing up Caleb's wheelchair for Halloween
when he was 3, and as he's gotten older, they've started collaborating on costumes.
"I know they look elaborate but, honestly, my only tools are a hot glue gun and some cardboard," McLelland said. "Anyone can do it and many do. I see more and more wheelchair costumes every single year."
Spina bifida is the most common permanently disabling birth defect in the U.S. It occurs when a baby's spinal column doesn't close up properly while in the womb. Although about eight babies are born in the U.S. each day with SB, it remains a relatively unknown disease.
"I think people assume that our lives are somehow abnormal compared to everyone else," McLelland said. "I think people assume that our lives revolve around Caleb and spina bifida, that SB consumes our lives. It doesn't. Spina bifida is part of our life, but it isn't our life."
"I want people to see Caleb, not just the wheelchair or the leg braces, but Caleb … He is active, smart, funny and terribly handsome," she continued. "I want people to know that Caleb is so much more than his diagnosis. I want people to see that a wheelchair is not something that he is 'bound' to or 'confined' to, it's his freedom. Mobility is a beautiful thing. That boy is living life and I'm just along for the ride. And it's been a pretty good ride so far."
You can make a donation to the Spina Bifida Association here