WARNING: Distressing content
A fundraiser for 9-year-old Quaden Bayles, who told his mother in a heartbreaking viral video that he wanted to die after being bullied at school, has reached more than $315,000.
The enormous sum, raised to help send Quaden and his mother Yarraka Bayles to Disneyland in the United States, comes after an outpouring of support for the young boy from high-profile celebrities, journalists and sportspeople across the world.
Today the schoolboy will lead out the NRL's Indigenous All Stars team at Robina Stadium as they prepare to face their annual showdown with the Māori All Stars on the Gold Coast.
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"[He's] very excited. He's getting prepped up," Bayles said at a press conference with South Sydney Rabbitohs player Cody Walker on Friday.
"He's got to go find his footy boots and make sure that he's fit and healthy to do the honours tomorrow."
Quaden lives with Achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism.
Bayles said it was his dream to be a footy player, but he knew it wasn't a reality for him.
"These uncles of his and our brothers and cousins are living the dream that he only dreams of," she said.
"This is the closest thing for him to be able to get out on that field for him to play football. And if all he can do is run the boys out then that's enough for us."
Quaden described his week as "going from the worst day of his life to the best day of his life", she said.
'THAT HURT US'
In the distressing video shared by his mother on Thursday, Quaden was in hysterics as he cried: "Give me a knife – I want to kill myself … I just want to die right now".
"This is the impact that bullying has on a 9-year-old kid that just wants to go to school, get an education and have fun," Bayles said.
Walker told reporters on Friday that seeing the footage hurt the team "in so many ways".
"We thought very quickly about what we can do to lift his spirits first and foremost and one of the vehicles in Aboriginal communities is rugby league," he explained.
"This game is a very important game within those communities, so what better way to get Quaden down here on the Gold Coast, be apart of the team, lead us out like the young warrior he is and show him that we love him, that the broader community loves him and he's doing a wonderful job in standing up to this kind of behaviour."
Quaden will walk out hand-in-hand with Indigenous All Stars captain Joel Thompson when the team runs out onto the field on Saturday night.
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