Two Central Texas Boys Share Message of Inclusivity in Xbox Commercial

Two Texas boys captured the hearts of viewers as they displayed their friendship in a Xbox commercial with a message of inclusivity.

Gunnar Franchione and Owen Sirmons, both 9 from the Austin area, met in kindergarten and have been best friends ever since, NBC affiliate KXAN reported. Their friendship was captured in an emotional Microsoft commercial where Owen played with an adaptive controller. He has a rare genetic disorder called Escobar Syndrome which causes him to have tight joints and muscles.

“Over the years, he’s had 33 corrective surgeries to correct his ankles and knees,” Erica Sirmons, Owen’s mom, said. “And a lot of the surgeries were on his spine.”

In October, a friend emailed Rebecca about auditioning for a commercial. Soon both the boys had a follow-up Skype interview with a casting agency, were approved and flew to Vancouver.

The ad shows children from the neighborhood coming together to rally behind Owen as he plays a video game with the adaptive controller. He wins and the kids cheer for him as he stands up from his wheelchair to dance with the friends.

“I know that Gunnar is like the protector of Owen,” Erica said. “Every time we see it, I still get a little choked up. This is as good as it gets for a 9-year-old boy to be on an Xbox commercial where he gets to win and all his friends cheer him on. That’s amazing.”

Microsoft’s tagline in the ad is “When everybody plays, we all win.”

“They don’t see themselves as being anything different,” Rebecca said. “I remember the driver to the airport, when Erica was getting Owen’s wheelchair out. The driver leaned over and said, ‘You’re a special kid for being friends with Owen’ and Gunnar was like, ‘No, I’m special because he’s friends with me.’”

The moms say they've received positive feedback about the commercial. The boys say the friendship showcased throughout the commercial is authentic and is what happens in everyday life.

“I think it’s pretty good – nice and awesome,” Gunnar said.

“I like sharing the message of our friendship because it shows that not only two kids can make it big because they’re friends, but two completely different friends can make it big,” Owen said.

The Xbox website says Microsoft formed partnerships with The AbleGamers Charity, The Cerebral Palsy Foundation, SpecialEffect, Warfighter Engaged and other community members, which helped shape the design, functionality and packaging of the XBox Adaptive Controller.

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