The sound of a revving tractor engine starting up gets 6-year-old Dylan Earles revved up and excited.
"He jumps up and down," said Jerry Earles, his grandfather, whose Kubota tractor Earles most often hears.
Dylan Earles, who has cerebral palsy and needs assistance walking, lives on a farm in Axton. His father, Christopher Earles, said the little boy has loved everything with wheels since he was old enough to notice.
On Monday, Dylan Earles toured Collie Equipment — a Kubota tractor distributor in Danville — where he got to ride in an enclosed tractor and an ATV, sit in several tractors in the store and get a behind-the-scenes peak at the workshop where engines are stripped apart and repaired.
"This is like Disneyland for him... he's in heaven right now," said his mother, Jennifer Earles, as her son rode an ATV in the business parking lot and down a side road.
As family members arrived, Dylan Earles spent several minutes just sitting on one of the tractors in the shop off Industrial Drive, repeatedly turning the wheel to the left before going back to the middle and then to the right. Then, he and older brother Timothy rode in multiple Kubota vehicles before getting a tour of the facility and workshop. Last he received several Kubota-themed gifts.
The family got to tour the facility as a result of a Halloween costume contest for special needs children organized by Virginia-based Children's Assistive Technology Services, a company that focuses on providing innovative solutions to children with physical disabilities at no cost to the families.
The Hallowheels competition involved 22 special-needs children from four districts — Richmond, Roanoke, Lynchburg and Charlottesville — who received specially designed Halloween costumes that fit their requests and preferences.
Members of Axton-based Mountain Valley Artisan Barn, a venue for artists and performers, designed for Dylan Earles a wheelchair with a Kubota tractor costume, complete with over-sized wheels, as part of a competition.
The finished costume has six wheels and a dirt scoop that the little boy can control. During its initial presentation, the wheelchair also blew bubbles out of the front exhaust pipe as the chair rolled.
John Naples, Roanoke-based program manager with Children's Assistive Technology Services, said that this is the third year the company has coordinated the event, which included 22 participants across the state this year.
"A part of our mission is to make sure that special-needs children have inclusivity into everything," he said.
Kirk Cotter, CEO of Mountain Valley Artisan Barn, met members of Children's Assistive Technology Services at a conference for nonprofits, where he inquired about ways they could partner. Soon after, the opportunity arose to work with Dylan Earles, a local child.
“I had no problem coming up with six or seven people that wanted to join the team," he said.
The final team of five, which included nurses, a medical technician, the owner of a bicycle shop and an employee of a salvage yard, met several times over a period of weeks to discuss design. In the end, Cotter said, the team was happy with what they developed.
“Everybody kind of chimed in and worked together and it worked out really well," he said.
Dylan Earles' jaw dropped when he first received the personalized tractor costume.
“He was rolling around… he was just so excited," Cotter added.
Dylan Earles will keep the customized tractor wheelchair and continue to play with it outside at his family's Axton farm.
"Just seeing him happy means everything," added Christopher Earles.