Spider-Man star talks bullying, love life and has his heart stolen by a little girl.
Cloudy skies didn’t keep The Amazing Spider-Man 2 actor Andrew Garfield away from Bondi Beach on Friday where he attended a surfing event for autism – and left with the love of a little girl.
Alongside Australian surfing world champion Joel Parkinson, the 30-year-old actor strolled down to the famous beach in board shorts and a t-shirt to meet a little-known Australian autism support organisation, Hunter Connect, and to take some very excited children with autism out surfing.
But it was an unfolding love story between the Spider-Man star and a little girl that stole the day.
When Andrew first arrived he was introduced to a sandy-haired, four-year-old girl called Rylee Nosworthy, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of two.
The actor took a particular liking to the shy, smiling darling as she hung back behind her parents, too overwhelmed to approach the star herself.
He spent the morning talking to her parents, Amy and Jason, trying to find out more about Rylee and watched on with a smile as they gently encouraged her into the water and onto a surfboard for the first time – this being no easy feat for a little girl whose life can be rocketed by a change in routine.
Talking about the Spider-Man star, Rylee’s mother Amy, 30, said she was blown-away by how genuine and laid-back the actor was.
“It felt like we were just catching up with friends at the beach – not meeting a celebrity,” Amy said.
“Andrew arrived early and just strolled down the beach, shook our hands and introduced himself to us and straight away started asking questions about Rylee and when she was first diagnosed with Autism.“
The rising Hollywood star spent close to two hours with the children, taking them out on the surfboards and signing merchandise, including Spider-Man branded surfboards to be auctioned off to support children with autism.
But it was a DVD that he signed for Rylee and the events that unfolded afterwards that captured everyone’s heart.
Rylee, whose struggle with normal social interaction is a daily battle, didn’t want to get a photo with Andrew and flatly refused a request for a hug, despite the actor frowning and turning his puppy dog eyes on her.
The actor joked about being rejected by the adorable infant, to which her mother quipped, “You wouldn’t get that very often.”
But his charm and gentle nature eventually wore down Rylee’s barriers resulting in a melt-your-heart moment, not even Rylee’s parents saw coming.
“Towards the end of the day he was signing The Amazing Spider-Man DVDs for the children, when he picked up Rylees and wrote, ‘I hope one day we get to hug.’”
Little did he know – his hug was coming sooner than he thought.
The little girl surprised everyone when they told her the actor was leaving. She was prompted to give him a high-five before he left but instead followed it up by running into his arms and giving him the hug he was hoping for.
“The look on his face in the pictures we captured was priceless – he really is a superhero!” Amy said.
But Rylee wasn’t the only child that was moved by this unassuming Hollywood actor who spoke candidly about being bullied, after 13-year-old Kai Hampton, who also suffers from autism, confided in Andrew that he gets bullied at school a lot.
“I was bullied as a kid also. It is these little differences that make us stand out now. These are our special talents that make us unique,” Andrew told Kai.
“If it wasn’t for the person that bullied me when I was younger, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t be Spider-Man.”
Kai later told his mother Jenny that he felt less alone after speaking to the star and believed he could chase his dream and realise them, like Andrew had in Spider-Man.
“I was very touched by how open Andrew was and that he shared such a private part of his life with us,” Kai’s mother Jenny said.
“I am hoping his words ring in Kais ears on a daily basis when he is battling against the constant taunts of people who just don’t understand.”
The British-American actor, who is in Australia to promote his new film The Amazing Spiderman 2, got his reps to contact the Australian charity organisation, Hunter Connect, and asked to be involved in a surf event for autism while in Sydney.
The actor told Amy that he began surfing five years ago and fell in love with the sport, which led to his interest in Surfers for Autism, a charity event run by Hunter Connect.
“Andrew appreciates the impact surfing can have on individuals impacted by Autism Spectrum Disorder and wanted to connect with a local Australian Charity who supported families affected by autism,” Development Clinician of Hunter Connect Families, Rachael Corrigan, said.
While Andrew attended the autism surfing event solo, his on – and off – screen love interest Emma Stone was never far from his mind.
“He did speak quite candidly about her to us, at one stage placing his hand on his heart while saying how she’s a really great person, with a big heart,” Amy said.
Rylee has since watched her signed copy of The Amazing Spider-Man movie three times and politely corrects her mother whenever she refers to the actor as spider-man, saying, “It’s Andrew, Mummy!.”
About Hunter Connect
Hunter Connect is a small regional-based charity established in 2010, which operates in the Hunter Valley in NSW. They are hoping this high-profile day will help them raise more awareness and funding for autism, which affects an estimated one in 100 people in Australia.
The not-for-profit organisation supports and connects families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and similar neurological disorders in the Hunter region. At the moment, Hunter Connect has just held its third annual Surfers For Autism event in Newcastle, presently the only one of its kind in Australia.
“This event is perhaps one of the few days a family (both parents, siblings and child affected by autism) will venture into the community and experience a day like most of us take for granted, Rachael Corrigan said.
“Families love the fact that if their child experiences a meltdown or sensory overload, they are surrounded by non-judgmental parents and carers who experience a similar journey themselves.”
The overwhelming success of how this event has been met by the public has prompted Hunter Connect to begin working with a group of volunteers / parents from Sydney and the Central Coast to begin preparations for holding an October 2014 Surfers For Autism day either in Sydney or on the Central Coast.
For more information about the surfboard auction, to learn more about autism or to throw your support behind a fabulous Australian charity – visit the Hunter Connect Facebook page.