A nine-year-old boy who was left suicidal after being bullied because of his dwarfism has had “the best day of his life” as he led out an all-star rugby league team in Australia.
In the viral video the youngster was heard saying, “I’m going to die right now… give me a knife, I’m going to kill myself”, after a bullying incident at his school.
On Saturday, Quaden was invited to walk the Indigenous All-Stars rugby league team onto the field as they took on the Maori All-Stars in an exhibition match on Australia’s Gold Coast.
The crowd at the Cbus Super Stadium in Robina, Queensland, erupted in cheers as Quaden entered the field hand-in-hand with captain Joel Thompson.
Dressed in an All-Stars jersey, he wore black noise-cancelling headphones and clung to the match ball as he strode into the middle of the pitch.
Ahead of the event, Quaden’s mother Yarraka Bayles said her son had described the invitation to attend the match as “going from the worst day of his life to the best day of his life”.
“We could never have dreamt in our wildest dreams that it would’ve gone worldwide and created such a media frenzy,” Ms Bayles said.
“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare losing their babies and for me that’s my reality every day.
“That’s what I have to prepare for – the worst, because everything he is going through with his medical condition, the suicide attempts are very real and people don’t understand that.
“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 been way too many and it’s something that needs to be addressed, it’s an international crisis and it demands urgent attention.”
Rugby league player Cody Walker described Quaden as a “young warrior”.
“We’re in a pretty privileged position to be sports stars and obviously seeing that hurt us in so many ways and thought very quickly about… what we can do to lift his spirits first and foremost,” he said.
“One of the vehicles in Aboriginal communities is rugby league and… this game is a very important game within those communities, so what better way to get Quaden down here on the Gold Coast, be a part of our team, lead us like the young warrior he is, and show him that we love him.”
A comedian has raised more than $440,000 (£339,000) after setting up a fundraising page to send Quaden to Disneyland following his bullying ordeal.
American Brad Williams, who has the same dwarfism condition achondroplasia as Quaden, set up the GoFundMe page after seeing the video of the youngster in floods of tears.
Hollywood star Hugh Jackman and Star Wars actor Mark Hamill are among those who have voiced support for Quaden since the clip of him went viral.
:: Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.