'Thank you, Target': Mom's post about child using wheelchair in ad goes viral

"Oliver sees kids every day, but he never gets to see kids like him."

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/ Source: TODAY
By Terri Peters

On a recent Target run with her son, Oliver, Demi Garza-Pena saw something that made her stop right in her tracks.

It wasn't an eye-catching item from the Dollar Spot or a cute top on the clearance rack. It was her almost 2 year old's reaction to an advertisement for kids' graphic tees that showed a child using a wheelchair — just like he does.

Oliver was born with caudal regression syndrome, a disorder that impairs development in the lower half of the body, and uses a wheelchair for mobility.

"We do not use the term 'wheelchair bound,'" Garza-Pena explained. "A wheelchair is an asset — I catch him going fast and putting his arms out to the side like he is flying and I can see the freedom it has given him."

Still, the Arizona mom says she's noticed a lack of representation of kids who use wheelchairs in advertising, until her visit to Target, which happened earlier this month.

"Thank you Target," Garza-Pena wrote in a now viral post about the incident. "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."

Demi Garza-Pena and her husband, Don, with Oliver on his first birthday.Shealin Duncan

Garza-Pena says she posted about the experience on Facebook because she hopes to raise awareness about the importance of inclusion in advertising, and show others the impact seeing different types of kids represented had on her son, who turns two in March.

"It meant a lot to me as a parent, to see my child look at somebody and feel there are no differences," said Garza-Pena. "Every parent never wants their child to be left out and that is often the case in advertisements. That day, he was not left out. He was represented."