Quaden Bayles went from having the “worst day of his life to the best day of his life” when he led an Australian national All-Star rugby league team onto the field on Saturday, his mom said.
The 9-year-old boy garnered worldwide attention last week when his mom Yarraka Bayles, an advocate for Indigenous issues and disability awareness, posted a video on social media of her son breaking down over taunts he received at school. Quaden, who lives with a common form of dwarfism called achondroplasia, expressed multiple times an urge to take his own life in the video.
Bayles said she wanted to show the severe impacts of bullying and hoped that by sharing the video, something would change.
In the days after the video was posted, it went viral and many celebrities, including Australian actor Hugh Jackman, sent Quaden messages of support. The Australian Indigenous All-Stars team also invited him to join them in their game against the Maori All-Stars in Queensland.
On Saturday, Quaden donned a set of noise-canceling headphones, held captain Joel Thompson’s hand and led the Aussie team from the locker rooms out onto the field:
“We could never have dreamt in our wildest dreams that it would’ve gone worldwide and created such a media frenzy,” Bayles said, per Reuters. “It’s every parent’s worst nightmare losing their babies and for me that’s my reality every day.”
“There are way too many people suffering in silence and my heart goes out to those families that have already lost their children to bullying,” she added.
Comedian Brad Williams, who was also born with achondroplasia, launched a GoFundMe Page to raise money for Quaden and his mom to visit Disneyland in Los Angeles. The page quickly surpassed its $10,000 goal and as of Sunday, has raised more than $700,000. Williams said all additional money raised would go towards anti-bullying charities.
After being targeted by trolls over the weekend, Bayles removed the original Facebook video and privatised her and Quaden’s Instagram profiles.
If you or someone you know needs help:
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
Headspace on 1800 650 890
Outside of Australia, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.