We love Target. Doesn’t everybody? The retailer gives us so many reasons to. There are aisles to get lost in and things you never knew you needed to buy.
Aside from stores that we’ll gladly spend hours in, Target is also pretty awesome as a company. It has done a lot to be inclusive, from adaptive Halloween costumes to gender-neutral clothing. Thanks to one mom, we’re now seeing how Target’s dedication to representation is paying off.
Demi Garza Pena was with her son, nearly 2-year-old Oliver, in her local store. She saw her little boy stop and gaze at an ad in the boy’s clothing section. Her heart was full when she realized there was a boy in a wheelchair in the Target ad.
Demi shared the photo on Facebook, and it quickly went viral. It made its way back to the mom of the boy in the ad, Colton Robinson. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the two families.
Demi Garza Pena was walking around her local Target with her son. Oliver is almost 2 years old and lives with caudal regression syndrome. Her son was in his wheelchair when he spotted something that completely surprised him.
Demi saw that Oliver was in awe of a Target ad that featured a boy in a wheelchair. She snapped a photo of the special moment and shared it on Facebook.
“Thank you Target! 🎯😀👏,” she wrote. “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!” she continued. “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!” Demi continued. “There is a lot of focus on representing diversity, but representing people with disabilities is just as important! ❤.” It wasn’t long until her post went viral, being shared more than 29,000 times.
“When I posted the photo I knew it was heartwarming and had a huge message to us in a very personal way but we didn’t realize the world felt the same way,” Demi told Good Morning America. “It brings us faith to see the backing we got this from. We hope to educate the world on inclusion and representation because every child needs a role model.”
In the many comments that have amassed on Oliver’s photo, many people are praising Target for its incredible dedication to making all children feel seen.
“Just in the past month, my teenage sister and my 8yo daughter have each had moments like this in Target,” shared one commenter. “My 8yo daughter has lots of freckles and looked up at a Target model with dark skin and even more vibrant freckles and said, ‘Look, Mommy, her freckles are pretty.’ 😭❤🎯.”
As the photo circulated, Ashley Robinson of West Springfield, Massachusetts, spotted it. Her son, Colton, was the boy featured in the Target ad. Seeing the profound impact the ad had on Oliver was very emotional for her.
“I’m that little boy in the Target displays Mom and this picture has me in tears! Tell Ollie he can do anything he puts his mind to! ❤️❤️,” Ashley commented on the photo. Ashley and Demi then connected and got to talking.
Unlike Oliver, Colton lives with spina bifida. He’s been doing modeling jobs since 2014, when he was a finalist in a Parents Magazine competition.
This is the first time Ashley has gotten to see the impact her son has on other disabled children. In talking to Demi, she also realized that the two boys share some of the same challenges.
Colton shared his own story about seeing Oliver’s photo with local news outlet ABC 40. It was unlike anything he’d experienced in his 10 years. “When I saw it, I felt happy inside, ’cause I never see that kind of thing with other people in a wheelchair,” he said.
Demi can’t believe how rare it is to see disabled kids represented in advertising. She’s hoping that as this story gets out there, that will change. There are plenty of other children who look like Colton and Oliver. There’s no reason why advertising shouldn’t reflect that.
“We want companies to jump on board for more inclusive advertising,” Demi stated. “These photos need to be everywhere all the time. People with disabilities need more representation in the community.”
Ashley agrees and says the photo of Oliver looking at Colton’s ad is a prime example of that. “Children of all abilities and sizes need to be represented,” she said. “I mean, who doesn’t want to look at an ad and see someone that you have something in common with? It’s important for everyone to feel included. It’s just a beautiful thing.”
More children will be able to have an experience like Oliver’s as Colton’s Target ad continues to roll out in stores nationwide. It’s hopefully the beginning of a bigger effort by other companies to match Target’s dedication to inclusivity. These small steps make a big difference in the self-images of children with disabilities.