A group of Syrian refugees wandered into a furry convention — and magic happened.

Gabriel Sickel, an actor and musician from Rio Vista, California, can frequently be found hanging out in a white cat suit with blue eyes and a mile-wide grin.

Gabriel Sickel as Khord Kitty. Photo by Gabriel Sickel/Twitter, used with permission.


Sickel is a furry — and like many furries, frequently role-plays as an anthropomorphic animal, often in an intricate full-body cat costume, called a fursuit. While shows like "CSI" have cast furry-dom — reductively and unfairly, according to many furries — as a hobby that's exclusively sexual in nature, for furries like Sickel, getting into costume is primarily about performance, identity, and a sense of community.

Sickel spent last week performing as his alter ego Khord Kitty at VancouFUR, an annual gathering of furries in Vancouver, Canada.

On the last day of VancouFUR, the refugees arrived.

As the conference was drawing to a close, word began circulating among the over 800 attendees that a group of Syrian families had recently arrived in Vancouver.

The refugees' first stop would be the Executive Airport Plaza Hotel, where the furry conventioneers were staying.

A note distributed to VancouFUR participants warned that, for the refugees, arriving in the middle of a furry convention would likely be a "major culture shock" and urged the furries to steer clear if possible.

"Keep in mind that they likely will not want to interact with you, and that consent is important for everyone," the message read.


As two large groups staying in same hotel, however, the furries and the refugees couldn't avoid each other for long.

According to Sickel, many of the refugee children were a little scared at first, but the conventioneers — a few of whom had mascot experience — were excited to entertain them.

"After about five minutes, they all warmed up and then they started jumping around with me on my tail," Sickel told Upworthy. "It was really cute."


Sickel was proud to help provide the refugee children with an unforgettable first few days in their new country.

"It made me feel great." Sickel explained. "I mean, I was aware of the Syrian situation, so knowing that I could help their introduction to Canada be a lot warmer, I felt very privileged to get to do that."

Fursuitters, including Khord Kitty (far right), greet Syrian children. Photo by @JayCat/Twitter, used with permission.

Other VancouFUR attendees said that making newcomers feel welcome is exactly what the furry community is all about.

A conference-goer entertains refugee children. Photo by JayCat/Twitter, used with permission.

"It's sort of a makeshift safe heaven for people who feel bullied, discriminated, or alone," Chris Jantz, another convention participant, told Upworthy. Entertaining the refugees, he explained, was an extension of that ethic.

"Our fandom is all about the acceptance of those oppressed in one way or another."

Ultimately, there was plenty of love to go around.

"Khord Kitty ... got a big hug from one of the parents," Jantz said. "It showed us that not only can we, from different cultures, get along just fine, but I think it's heartwarming how much they appreciated what we did for their kids."

It was a scene few of the furries would soon forget.

"Thousands of miles and two different cultures ... but a warm greeting does wonders," another conventioneer, who goes by JayCat, told Upworthy via Twitter.

"We're all human after all!"

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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