Who knew that an ordinary day of shopping would bring about such a beautiful moment? Demi Garza-Pena and her 2-year-old son Ollie were at the Target store in Peoria, Arizona when the little boy stopped in his tracks.
They were moving through a rack of clothes when the young boy looked up in astonishment. He was gazing in wonder at a Target advertisement featuring a boy in a wheelchair. It was like looking in a mirror.
Ollie was born at 29 weeks, weighing a mere 2 lbs. and 11 oz., with caudal regression syndrome, a rare condition that affects the lower spine and organs. This means that Ollie will not have the use of his legs and is permanently disabled.
He uses a wheelchair to get around, much like the boy in the advertisement. Ollie looked at the sign with such awe that it moved Demi to tears. She said, “It was just a beautiful moment to see. Him admiring somebody like him because he doesn’t get to see that often.”
When she saw her son’s response to the advertisement, Demi realized the importance of representation, and its tremendous impact on children. She posted a photo of Ollie and the sign on Ollie’s World, the Facebook page chronicling Ollie’s journey. She included a heartfelt message to the store:
“Thank you Target! Today Oliver stopped me dead in his tracks and turned back around to see this picture that he spotted! He just stared at it in awe! He recognized another boy like him, smiling and laughing on a display at Target.”
“Oliver sees kids every day, but he never gets to see kids like him. This was amazing! I am so happy that other kids that pass through here with their parents, will see this! There is a lot of focus on representing diversity, but representing people with disabilities is just as important!”
The image sent such a powerful message on the significance of inclusivity that the post has generated almost 50,000 likes, and has been shared almost 35,000 times! It has even circled back to Colton, the boy in the advertisement that captivated Oliver.
Demi expressed the hope that more businesses soon follow Target’s example. She shared, “We hope that everyone will continue to stand with us and promote the importance of representation and inclusion! Everywhere…everybody, everywhere, all the time. That would make a huge difference.”
The powerful inclusive advertisements were launched in 2017, and are regularly refreshed by Target. Another batch is expected later this month. Luca Bakemeier, the Target Store Director, explained, “It’s what we live for, what we love to see that kind of backing and see that support not only for Ollie but just the things Target’s been doing.” Target continues to introduce products and initiatives that embraces everyone, including people with disabilities.
With just one look, Ollie started a whole new conversation about representation and inclusion, particularly for the tiniest members of the community. Hopefully, representation will become more the norm, rather than the exception, in more industries and sectors in society.
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