One father and his teenage daughter are bringing smiles and laughter to their Roanoke, Virginia neighborhood by dressing up in costume while taking their dog, Coby, for his afternoon walk. Kevin Schulz first got the idea after realizing that he wouldn’t be going into work for a while and needed a way to not only express his creative energy, but also do something to bring joy to his community.
“I’m not an essential worker, so I can’t make an impact on the frontline, but this is how we can raise spirits, even if it’s for a short time,” he said.
His daughter, Caitlin, who is a high school freshman, agrees. “When [my dad] first came up with the idea, I said it would be really fun!” she recalls.
The father/daughter pair have been dressing up in costume every day since March 26th. They always go out at the same time and walk the same three-mile route, and now the neighbors look forward to seeing what creative idea the pair have come up with each day.
“People now look for us,” said Kevin. “We get a lot of thumbs up and honking horns, people stopping to take pictures; we saw a car loop the block twice to take a picture of us.” One neighbor makes it a point to come outside and stand on his porch and wave as they go by each day. Caitlin even got an email from one of her teachers who saw a picture in the local news of the pair dressed as Batman and Robin.
“My teacher saw the picture and thought it was me, then she read the article and saw my name,” said Caitlin. “She told me what a great idea it was.”
Kevin and Caitlin have made a lot of their costumes, as well as repurposed old Halloween costumes and other items they already had at home. In fact, the pair said some of their best costumes have been put together in 20 minutes.
On April 6th, Kevin saw a friend post on Facebook that it was National Tartan Day, and that’s when he got the idea for them to dress up as a pair of Scottish warriors from the movie Braveheart. Using items they already had, and a sword Kevin fashioned out of scrap wood in 10 minutes, they pulled it all together just minutes before going on their walk. And it turned out to be a favorite.
“I got to use my sabre and wear my costume and it just felt fun,” said Caitlin, who is well-practiced with the sabre, thanks to being part of her high school color guard.
Other costumes have included: Jedi knights, the pink bunny and boxed leg lamp from “A Christmas Story,” a Coke bottle and the Coke Bear, a pair of pirates, Jim Craig and Jessica Harrison from “The Man From Snowy River,” and Lilo and Experiment 624.
In addition to using what they have around the house, family and friends have started sending them old costumes, and Kevin admits he did purchase one item online. “The teddy bear costume is actually one I bought second-hand on a website and I thought that would be fun because I knew the little kids were doing the teddy bear hunt and I thought I’d do a teddy walk through the neighborhood,” he said.
And just what does their family think of all of this?
“I love it!” exclaimed Fiona Schulz, Kevin’s wife and Caitlin’s mom, who has been documenting the pair’s efforts on Facebook each day. “This is Kevin’s creative mind working, and Caitlin’s the same. Both are creative people and it’s good to see them using that energy. It’s a nice way to divert people’s thinking for a moment. We’re all under a lot of pressure, stress, and anxiety, and [seeing them in costume] helps people relieve that for a moment,” said Fiona.
“You can always find the joy in hard times,” added Caitlin.
And there’s no plan to stop looking for the joy any time soon! The pair plan to keep dressing in costume and walking Coby daily, for as long as their city is under stay-at-home orders. They’re already planning some new ideas for the coming weeks (did someone say Joe Exotic?), and taking requests from family and friends. Caitlin will also be celebrating her 15th birthday next week, although they’re not sure yet what costumes they’ll be wearing to commemorate the big day.
Kevin and Caitlin want to tell others who might be thinking of doing something similar to think outside the box and go for it!
“Don’t be afraid to be outside your comfort zone,” said Kevin. “I was willing to make myself look foolish in order to make someone else laugh.”
Caitlin agrees, and also said it’s been great father/daughter time. “It’s brought us closer,” she said and then added, “there are times we argue on what costume to wear, but we still have fun. It’s a good father/daughter time.”
Note: If you’d like to follow along and see more of the duo’s daily costumes, please head over to their Instagram page: @costumedogwalkers.