For an 11-month-old baby, Lucas Vukelic gets a lot of high-fives in public.
That’s because a Tacoma business has been turning infant medical helmets such as Lucas’ into coveted Seattle Seahawks attire.
Strangers who saw Lucas when his cranial helmet was baby blue expressed pity – even though it’s just a cosmetic treatment for a flat spot on the head of the Normandy Park infant.
“All that got washed away with some vinyl graphics and a little bit of labor,” said Quinton Steckler, co-owner of WrapJax, which dressed up Lucas’ helmet.
Now the baby is a Hawks fan in the making.
WrapJax usually wraps cars, but when Lucas’ mother, Melissa Holbert, asked them to do a helmet, Steckler said yes when he realized what the helmet was used for. His 4-year-old nephew once needed a cranial helmet, which a baby must wear for several months as it corrects the shape of the child’s skull.
Steckler thinks he’s wrapped about a dozen helmets since doing Lucas’ in September, and he and WrapJax co-owner Jason Scott have several more in the queue. They do them for free, which means they fit them in between other jobs.
“Being able to see these little kids light up, and their parents light up when they put them on for the first time, that’s worth everything,” Steckler said. “The kids don’t necessarily know what’s going on, but it’s the parents that it really touches your heart.”
Each helmet is a little different, but Steckler said he makes them all look as authentic as possible. A recent one had Russell Wilson’s number 3 on the back, and a green dot to indicate it was the Hawks’ quarterback’s helmet.
When it comes to licensing, he said: "We didn't think there would be any issue as long as we don't charge for them and the fact that it's for kids cranial helmets."
Holbert started looking for a way to decorate Lucas’ helmet in Seahawks style after getting concerned reactions when people saw the plain head gear.
“They saw the helmet, and everybody just looked at you like: ‘You poor, poor thing,’” she said. “Some people would actually verbalize it.”
She’d explain that everything was OK. That Lucas is a happy, healthy baby.
But the reactions bothered her, and got her looking for other options. A friend directed her to Steckler.
With the revamped helmet and Hawks fever in full rush in anticipation of Sunday’s Super Bowl, her son has become a star.
“Now you go out there and people are high-fiving this little 11-month-old baby,” she said. “The reactions make him light up. Like: ‘I don’t know what just happened, but this is great.’”
Word about the wrapped cranial helmets spread fast, including to a mom who saw Lucas at the doctor’s office the day after his helmet was decorated.
“She was like: ‘Name and number. Where do I go?’” Holbert remembered.
Holbert and her husband Joel initially were worried about how Lucas would react to wearing a cranial helmet, but decided it was best to do the treatment. It ended up being just like any other clothing he wears, she said.
“The very instant it went on his head, there wasn’t a tear shed,” Holbert remembered. “He looked up at us like: ‘What’s the big deal?’”
It’s been that way for the Junkin family of Edmonds They visited Steckler on Friday.
Laura Junkin said her son Noah, who’s almost 8 months-old, has always slept with his head to the right. That started causing a flat spot that she and Tacoma firefighter husband Neil worked to correct by propping him up and turning him to the left at night. But the kid wasn’t having it, and kept switching sides.
So they tried the helmet, which Noah has had for about two weeks, and likely will wear for four months. Like Lucas, he’s in it 23 hours a day.
“He sleeps in it, he does great,” his mother said.
The Junkins figured they’d at least put a Hawks sticker on the helmet. But when they saw a photo at the hospital of a little boy in one of WrapJax’s helmets, they got the details and called the business.
“They said one: it’s free; and two: they only do Seahawks,” Laura Junkin remembered.
That’s probably because Steckler is a lifelong Seahawks fan, which explains his car. The vintage Volkswagen beetle is wrapped with Hawks colors and the logo, and he’s had it signed by a handful of players: Golden Tate, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bobby Wagner, Steven Hauschka.
He’s gotten business from his ride, too. WrapJax has done about half a dozen cars in Seahawks decor, though he says they don't use actual team logos due to licensing issues.
“Definitely a diehard” fan, Steckler said.
Lucas’ family can relate.
His uncle, who will be at the game Sunday, holds season tickets that have been in the family for 38 years. In his Hawks notebook, big brother Max, 6, draws plays for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and got to go to a New York Giants game for his birthday this year. He wrestles with Lucas when the family watches games at home, and as he tosses his football around, the baby chews on a miniature one.
Lucas has a doctor appointment next week, and it’s possible that’ll be the end of his cranial-helmet routine.
But not before.
“He’ll definitely be wearing it during the Super Bowl,” Holbert said.