This story was first published on the Southern Highlands News website on July 25, 2016. Will Clarke, of Bowral, has recently appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 report.
At just 20 years of age, Will Clarke launched his own business.
Will has been recycling old cricket bats - and the result of his hard work is amazing.
Artists from across the country have put their hands up to create an artwork on the recycled bats.
Will has Austism and has been working with the Men’s Shed in Bowral to give the old bats a new lease on life.
His mum Ange said the Men’s Shed members had helped Will sand the bats and fix any problems that may arise.
“The aim at this stage is to get Will to understand the bats, work out how to sand them and to develop these skills,” she said.
“Will’s learning beautiful new skills [in] woodwork and carpentry.”
Ange thanked Stephen Hughes from Anala who has supported Will as his carer and takes him to the Men’s Shed each week to work on the bats.
Artist Peter Brown was one of the first to jump on board and has since put the Clarkes in touch with other artists in Australia through Artists without Borders.
Ange said Rina Hore from the Bradman Foundation, who has known Will for the past 15 years, also offered to help.
On September 3, Will’s business Willo Industries will be officially launched at the Bradman Museum where an exhibition of the bats will be held.
A crowd funding campaign was also held recently and raised $7500.
Ange said the money had gone back into buying equipment for Will and establishing his own workshop.
“He becomes the best he can be and that’s what we want for any of our kids.”
Ange said she hoped Will would become an inspiration for other people living with a disability in the community.
She said they aimed to expand the business so that Will could employ people with a disability.
“He really wants to become an independent member of the community. We want people to look at Will and be inspired.”
Countless clubs and individuals have shown their support for Will and Ange said people continued to get involved every day.
Highlands artist Carlos Barrios will be designing a bat with the Sydney Roosters and Sydney Swans also signing a bat.
Ange said they hoped to have artists capture Bradman Oval as well as the SCG and MCG on bats.
“I think we’ve found something really unique. We’re connecting the art world with the sport world.”
The business is not just about recreating old bats into spectacular works of art.
Ange said some people just wanted their bats recycled which Will could do.
Willo Industries will offer a range of different bats from a beach scene through to more traditional cricketing images.