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11-Year-Old Boy with Muscular Dystrophy Transforms Into a Firefighter — Just in Time for Halloween

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Mari Gildea

Eleven-year-old Dalton Harvey, who has a rare for of muscular dystrophy, has always dreamed of becoming a firefighter.

So this September, a group of volunteers decided to help the boy from Franklin Grove, Illinois live his dream early – just in time for Halloween.

On Saturday, Dalton was outfitted with his own personal firetruck that’s built around the wheelchair he needs to get around.

“The joy on his face was just amazing,” Dalton’s mom, Tammy Harvey, tells PEOPLE of the first time he saw his costume.

Mari Gildea
Mari Gildea

Dalton was just 4 years old when he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder that causes progressive muscle degeneration and weakness and primarily affects boys, many of whom lose the ability to walk between ages 7 and 12. The disorder also affects the heart and lungs, ultimately proving fatal.

Despite his diagnosis, Dalton is “always happy, always smiling and always happy to see people,” his mom, principal of Ashton Franklin Center High School, says.

Dalton also has autism and although he is non-verbal, he still communicates with everyone he can.

“I call him my Walmart greeter because everywhere we go he knows everybody and everybody knows him and they all come up and shake his hand,” Tammy continues. “It’s amazing, for a child who doesn’t talk people still relate to him so well.”

While Dalton’s known around the family’s hometown for being a friend to everyone, there’s one group of people he’s always most excited to see: the town’s fire department.

“We go to every home football game together and for every single game, Dalton goes by and visits the firefighters standing by with an ambulance,” Tammy says. “For every game for 10 years, the firefighters have taken Dalton through the ambulance and let him open all the cabinets and look around.”

Mari Gildea
Mari Gildea

This year, the Muscular Dystrophy Association surprised Dalton by nominating him to receive a custom wheelchair costume through the non-profit the Magic Wheelchair and its Midwest build team collaborator, Scary House.

The team at Scary House involved Dalton in every step of the process, from design to execution.

“We came to his home with a cardboard mock up and we had him sit in his wheelchair as we applied it. He didn’t want us to take it off!” Dan Gildea, the lead builder of the costume, tells PEOPLE.

Now that the final version has been completed, he won’t have to. On Saturday, Dalton received his costume in a special reveal celebration at the Franklin Grove fire station. After inspecting the engines and emergency vehicles, Dalton was outfitted in his own overalls jacket and helmet. Then came the moment he’d been waiting for.

Mari Gildea
Mari Gildea

“He couldn’t wait to get into it!” Gildea says.

After getting comfortable in his new fire truck, the local firefighters put Dalton right to work – letting him use a fire hose to put out a prop fire. Once wasn’t nearly enough.

“The firefighters helped Dalton put out the fire several times,” Gildea says.