Quaden is an Aboriginal Australian with achondroplasia dwarfism — a rare bone-growth disorder. Constant ridicule from other children drove him to the brink, his mother explained in a now-viral Facebook video.
“Give me a knife,” Quaden wails in the video. “I want to kill myself. I just want to die right now.”
“This is the effect of bullying,” says his mother, Yarraka Bayles, as her sobbing child buries his face in his seat.
His story caught the eye of California-based comedian Brad Williams, who grew up with the same condition. The GoFundMe campaign he started Wednesday to send Quaden to Disneyland exploded to nearly half a million dollars by Saturday afternoon and prompted much of the worldwide attention Quaden’s story has received.
The National Rugby League’s Indigenous All Stars team also took notice. “The boys are here, we got your back, we’re here to support you,” a member of the team said in a video ahead of the exhibition against the Maori All Stars on the Gold Coast.
Quaden’s turnaround was a relief to his mother. At a news conference Friday, she said he has gone “from the worst day of his life to the best day of his life,” according to the BBC.
“We are losing way too many people because of bullying, because of discrimination, because of racism,” she said. “There’s so many factors of bullying.
“On top of that, being an Aboriginal boy with a disability, people don’t understand that’s a double-edged sword,” she said. “There’s racism, and then there’s discrimination because of the disability.”
Quaden’s story resonated far and wide. Australian actor Hugh Jackman told him in a video, “Quaden, you are stronger than you know, and no matter what, you got a friend in me.”
The Maori All Stars won the game 30-16, but the focus remained on Quaden at the beginning.
The crowd was so loud that he wore a headset as he strode onto the field to the sounds of a didgeridoo. Quaden handed the referee the ball, stood tall with the team captains, and flashed a thumbs-up for the world.