LEESBURG, Va. – A Virginia mother's photo of her daughter stopped "in her tracks" by an Ulta Beauty store poster of a model in a wheelchair has been shared by tens of thousands of people.
Carolyn Anderson, of Leesburg, said her 4-year-old daughter Maren had been practicing "driving" her new wheelchair for about 12 weeks and had only recently become comfortable being out in public.
Maren lives with a rare disease stemming from a gene mutation that resulted in early infantile epileptic encephalopathy, spinocerebellar ataxia and pontocerebellar hypoplasia, Good Morning America reports.
The night that Anderson took the photo, she remembered Maren surprising them with a new confidence.
"She was so eager, we could barely get her to stop at crosswalks – then, she suddenly stopped and focused all her attention on this image of a woman in a wheelchair like hers. It was amazing," Anderson said.
She added that, for Maren, who has receptive and expressive language delays, it meant so much more.
"This was the first time we saw her stop and really connect with an image of a wheelchair user, like herself," Anderson said. "She got to see herself in this picture, and that planted a seed for her to see that there is a place for kids like her in this world. She was included."
Anderson captured the moment and shared the photo on Facebook, writing:
"Well Ulta, you absolutely stopped my girl in her tracks this evening. It was mesmerizing to watch her stop, turn and gaze at this poster. So thank you."
The post has been shared more than 73,000 times since August 14.
"The little wolf in the backpack is like so much my hearts exploding! My sweet girl would totally do that," one woman wrote.
"Well, you absolutely stopped me from scrolling through Facebook nonsense to stare at something that truly means something. This photo is beautiful is so many ways," another posted.
Anderson said Ulta is aware of her post.
"We have briefly spoken to Ulta and hope Maren can one day meet the inspirational model in the advertisement!" Anderson said.
In a statement to WRC-TV, an an Ulta Beauty spokesperson said:
“We love that this family shared such an amazing moment and were touched to see Maren looking at the image in our window – it makes us incredibly proud. We feel even more inspired to continue to feature amazing people that help us shape how the world sees beauty.”