More than a commercial… how this Super Bowl ad gave a two-year-old a new role model

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WESTPHALIA, Mich. (WLNS)– If you were watching the Super Bowl two weeks ago, you probably remember the Toyota USA commercial about Paralympian Jessica Long.

For one little girl though, it was more than a commercial.

The Schneider family lives in Westphalia. There’s Aaron, Lisa and their four children. Their youngest is two-year-old Myah.

Myah has spina bifida.

“The way it was explained to us is that the spine closes like a zipper and toward the bottom of her spine it didn’t close so it left an opening in her back and her spinal cord was exposed to the amniotic fluid and all the nerves from the point of the opening down were exposed and so she had nerve damage from that exposure,” said Lisa.

She was born at just 26 weeks and 5 days.

“She was actually naughty and she got the umbilical cord wrapped around her wrist at 26 weeks,” said Lisa, “I was naughty!” added Myah.

Myah walks with the help of her ankle braces and crutches. Sometimes even her doll stroller gives her an extra boost.

Myah pushes her doll stroller and her doll “Bongo”

She always seems to be on the move, but rewind two weeks ago… that Toyota USA Super Bowl commercial stopped her in her tracks.

Myah watching the Toyota USA Super Bowl commercial

“When she saw it, her face lit up and she said that girl has crutches like me,” said Lisa.

Lisa posted a picture of Myah watching the commercial on her Facebook page dedicated to telling Myah’s story. The page is called “Redefining Spina Bifida: Myah’s Journey.”

After posting it, Jessica Long, the 13x Paralympic gold medalist in the Toyota USA commercial shared it to her own page.

“I had other Paralympians reach out to me, the Paralympics shared it, Toyota shared it, ENews shared it,” said Lisa.

That wouldn’t be the only time they’d hear from Jessica. The two ended up meeting virtually.

“Myah thinks they’re best friends now and will go up to my computer and say I’m going to talk to Jessica,” said Lisa.

Aaron and Lisa both say they’re impressed with Toyota and that they would use their Super Bowl commercial to tell Jessica’s story and spread more awareness about people with physical disabilities.

“Her mom’s quote about ‘it won’t be easy, but it’ll be amazing,’ and I think that pretty much defines Myah or any parent that’s raising a special needs child right? It’s not easy, but very rewarding,” said Aaron.

Lisa says Jessica made Myah feel special and was thankful the two got the chance to meet.

“She even shared how much the photo meant to her and it’s just crazy to me because her reaching out to us means the world to us but to know that it meant the world to her as well that she is having this effect on the next generation is pretty incredible,” said Lisa.

That 60 second commercial might have been just an advertisement to some, but to this family and two-year-old girl, it was more than that.

“It shows her that she’s not alone and she can dream big, just like Jessica did when she was young,” said Lisa.

Myah’s parents say she is getting stronger and can walk farther and farther on her own everyday.

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