After a whirlwind week in which 9-year-old Quaden Bayles garnered global headlines, celebrity support and hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, his family has declined a crowdfunded trip to Disneyland, asking instead for the sum to be divided between selected charities.
Quaden was born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, and his story went viral last week when his mother, Yarraka Bayles, shared a video of her son’s heartbreaking response to being bullied at school in Brisbane, Australia.
U.S. comedian Brad Williams was moved to establish a GoFundMe campaign for Quaden to raise $10,000 to “send a wonderful kid to Disneyland.” The fund eventually received more than $474,000 in donations.
Now, a week after livestreaming the video to Facebook in a bid to call attention to the effects of bullying, Quaden’s family has decided the full sum should go to community organizations.
Quaden’s mom has been a vocal advocate for Indigenous issues and disability awareness, and the family has earmarked two organizations ― Dwarfism Awareness Australia and Balunu Healing Foundation, a nonprofit that works with Indigenous youth ― as groups they’d like to see benefit from the crowdfunding.
Quaden’s aunt Mundanara Bayles said that while family members are moved by the outpouring of goodwill, they’d prefer to see the money go toward the bigger issue. They are in discussions with Williams about getting the funding to their selected groups.
“We want the money to go to community organizations that really need it. They know what the money should be spent on. So as much as we want to go to Disneyland, I think our community would far off benefit from that,” she told Australia’s National Indigenous Television News in an exclusive interview.
“We need to come together and work out how to make sure young people like Quaden don’t have to deal with what they have been dealing with.”
Despite the support from around the world, Quaden’s family was also targeted by online trolls who pushed absurd, false conspiracy theories that Quaden was 18 years old. This prompted Yarraka Bayles to remove the video and make her and her son’s social media accounts, which she had previously used to promote her activism, private.
Mundanara Bayles said Quaden is in “high spirits” as she thanked all those around the world who had defended her nephew and the rest of the family.
Quaden’s mom said she’s been working on a package, tentatively titled “Quaden’s Law,” that aims to build emotional resilience and work with kids who demonstrate traits and patterns of bullying. She hopes that it can be mandated under Australian school curriculums and has already met with representatives from Quaden’s Carina State School and the Queensland state government.
“We discussed a care plan for Quaden if/when he chooses to return to school, or when we feel the time is right. We are working with the school to introduce an educational tools for schools package around disability awareness, diversity and inclusion,” she told NITV.