After a difficult week in which he was subjected to devastating bullying at school, Quaden Bayles has lived out a rugby league dream on the Gold Coast ahead of the NRL All Stars match.
The inspirational nine-year-old capped off a wild week in the headlines by leading out the Indigenous All Stars at CBUS Super Stadium, hand-in-hand with captain Joel Thompson.
Bayles looked absolutely star struck as he shook hands with every player on the Maori All Stars team, before proudly walking out onto the pitch with the Indigenous All Stars, and featuring in a pre-game photo with captains from each side.
It was a wonderful moment for the youngster who said in a video uploaded to Facebook by his mother just days earlier, “give me a knife, I want to kill myself,” due to bullying at his Brisbane school.
Thankfully, what began as a plea from his mother has quickly become a movement for Quaden – tonight on the Gold Coast is just the start.
The video of him sobbing in front of his distraught mother has been viewed over 16 million times since it was posted on Tuesday, with Bayles receiving a massive outpouring of support from around the world.
Among them is Australian actor Hugh Jackman, who posted a video message to Twitter telling Bayles: “No matter what, you’ve got a friend in me.”
“Quaden, you are stronger than you know, mate,” Jackman said. “Everyone, let’s just please be kind to each other. Bullying is not OK, period.”
A Go-Fund Me page set up by US comedian Brad Williams has raised almost $256,000 — and he’s using the money to send Bayles and his mother to Disneyland in California.
“This isn’t just for Quaden, this is for anyone who has been bullied in their lives and told they weren’t good enough,” Williams said on the fundraising page. “Let’s show Quaden and others that there is good in the world and they are worthy of it.”
Bayles, who was born with a condition called achondroplasia dwarfism, is the face of Stand Tall 4 Dwarfism, a charity set up by his mother to raise awareness and stop bullying.
He has reportedly undergone multiple operations and has been bullied in the past about his condition.
Williams, who also lives with achondroplasia, said on Twitter that he was “speechless” with the amount of donations received, which included air tickets for Bayles and his mom to go to Disneyland.
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