Comedians can be heroes too. That’s what American comic Brad Williams became when he helped raise money to send Quaden Bayles, a 9-year-old from Australia who was bullied at school for his dwarfism, to the happiest place on Earth: Disneyland.
The boy’s mother, Yarraka Bayles, posted a video this week on Facebook Live showing her son sobbing inconsolably in the back of their car, saying: “Give me a knife, I want to kill myself.” Her son, who reportedly was born with achondroplasia, had attempted suicide in the past, she said.
“This is what bullying does,” she says in the video, which went viral. “Can you please educate your children, your families, your friends?”
Williams, who also has dwarfism, saw the heartbreaking footage and decided to do something about it.
Williams shared the story on Twitter on Wednesday with the caption: “This makes me sick. I’ve been trying to get in touch with this family. If any of my Austrialian fans know this family. Please tell this wonderful boy that he has me and an army of friends all over the world that support him.”
Within hours, Williams got hold of the family and set up a GoFundMe with the hope of raising $10,000. By Friday morning, nearly 16,000 people had pledged more than $350,000 and counting.
“I’m setting up this GoFundMe to let Quaden know that bullying will not be tolerated, and that he is a wonderful human being who deserves joy,” Williams wrote on the website. “This isn’t just for Quaden, this is for anyone who has been bullied in their lives and told they weren’t good enough. Let’s show Quaden and others, that there is good in the world and they are worthy of it.”
But skeptics have questioned the veracity of the story, with some calling the whole thing a scam and alleging that Bayles is merely an actor. Others were debating his real age after photos of him celebrating a friend’s 18th birthday were found on his Instagram. Some social media users were also offended by a video of Bayles flaunting money that was posted a few days before Yarraka Bayles posted her video on Facebook video.
The love you have shown is unbelievable. Thank you! Money donated will not be wasted! We have a team of people making sure everything is completely legitimate. We thank you for your generosity and patience while we make sure all this is done the right way.— Brad Williams (@funnybrad) February 21, 2020
Williams addressed the controversy chatter Friday on Twitter, saying in part that he has a “team of people making sure everything is completely legitimate” after thanking all the donors for their support.
Some of the money raised will cover costs of travel, hotel, food and even-more-expensive tickets to Disneyland in Anaheim. Any additional funds will be donated to anti-bullying and anti-abuse charities, Williams said.
And there’s more: Quaden has also been offered bully-proofing martial arts training, including a trip to Singapore, from Chatri Sityodtong, an entrepreneur who owns a chain of martial arts academies in Asia. The aboriginal Australian boy has also been invited to lead the Indigenous All-Stars onto the field in their rugby league clash with the Maori All-Stars in Queensland on Saturday.
The video of Quaden also got the attention of some A-list celebrities, including Hugh Jackman, who posted a video of himself on Twitter and offered some supportive words to the boy.
“Quaden, you are stronger than you know. And no matter what, you’ve got a friend in me.”