A nine-year-old Australian boy who prompted a public outpouring of support after being bullied at school for his dwarfism has led out an all-star indigenous rugby league team as crowdfunding for the child nears the half a million mark.
Quaden Bayles, who lives with dwarfism-causing genetic disorder achondroplasia, was filmed by his mother Yarraka in a state of distress as she attempted to highlight the pain that bullying can cause.
Following a global display of empathy, the boy - who himself is aboriginal Australian - was asked to lead the Indigenous All Star rugby league team onto the field at the Cbus Super Stadium ahead of their clash with the Maori All Stars in Queensland.
In an invitation video to the child, fullback Rabbitoh Latrell Mitchell said: “We’ve got your back and just want to make sure that you are doing alright ... we want you around, we want you to lead us out on the weekend”.
As the pre-game procession began Quaden could be seen holding the hand of team captain Joel Tompson while walking onto the pitch to the roars of the crowd.
The team went on to lose to the Maori All Stars with a final score of 30-16.
The gesture came after Quaden’s pain and his mother’s frustration were shared across the globe in a video now viewed more than 20 million times.
“This is what bullying is doing and I want people to know how much this is hurting us as a family,” his mother says in the clip as the child threatened to harm himself.
“This is the impact that bullying has on a nine-year-old kid that just wants to go to school, get an education and have fun.”
The video has triggered outpourings of support and solidarity from members of the public and celebrities alike including actors Hugh Jackman, Mark Hamill and Warwick Davis, and musician Cardi B.
Comedian Brad Williams, who also has achondroplasia, set up a crowdfunding page to raise A$10,000 (£5,100) in an attempt to send the child to Disneyland. In the space of two days, sympathetic donors had offered up more than A$450,000.
“We could never have dreamt in our wildest dreams that it would’ve gone worldwide and created such a media frenzy,” Ms Bayles told reporters on Friday.
“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. It’s an international crisis and it demands urgent attention.”