Growing up being different isn’t always easy, and 5-year-old Pinjarra boy Kaelan Richter knows it all too well.
Since being diagnosed with epilepsy in November, Kaelan didn’t only have to deal with doctor appointments and medications.
He also had to come to terms with constantly wearing a helmet to protect his head during seizures, which he can have up to 15 times a day.
The bright green rugby-like helmet has become the focus of teasing by older boys, who started picking on Kaelan on the bus and at soccer games.
“They should know better than picking on a little kid,” Kaelan’s mother Toni Dodd said.
“He was at one of his older brother’s soccer games and some kids were calling him ‘spastic’ and ‘retard’, just being mean.
“He didn’t understand what they meant but he understood that they were being mean to him, so that was it, he didn’t want to wear his helmet any more.
“He is only five years old, so to have to deal with bullying at five years old is a bit hard.”
The teasing sparked a battle at home, with Ms Dodd struggling to get Kaelan to keep his helmet on at school.
When Sportspower Pinjarra store manager Joe Slade heard about Kaelan’s struggle he decided to step in to help.
He spoke to a couple of contacts and managed to get West Coast Eagles player Andrew Gaff to send an encouraging video to Kaelan, who is a huge Eagles supporter.
“You want your kids to be kids and not have to worry about bullying or anything,” he said.
“If you are a little bit different kids pick up on it and as a kid that can be life changing, good or bad, and I just wanted to make sure that it was done for the right reasons.
“You can see the enjoyment in his face that someone he doesn’t even know personally has spoken to him.”
In the video, Gaff encourages Kaelan not to feel self-conscious about wearing a helmet and to ignore any criticism from other children.
Ms Dodd said the video, which still makes Kaelan giggle every time he watches it, has made a big difference in getting him to wear his helmet to school.
“Knowing that somebody from a football team and the football team that he likes says that it’s cool to wear helmets, his little brother who is four says ‘Can I have a helmet?’ He wants one too,” she said.
“Hopefully it’s something he can keep with him so if he is every feeling a bit down about it as he gets older he’s always got that video as a positive reinforcement,” Mr Slade said.