Jan 11, 2021

When our story went to air on the 5th December this year with A Current Affair we were connected with families who felt so touched by Will, his love of cricket and his friendship with Ben. One of those families were the Buchanans from Howlong. When I read the letter they sent through and we spoke there was a knowing that Riley and Will were both gifted with that love of the game, a love of life and a deep need for inclusion. Both had experienced their share of discrimination isolation and exclusion and yet it had not deterred them from seeking inclusion and friendship above all things.

“Hi! My name is Bryan and I recently saw a news article on Will and his very moving story.  My son Riley is 14 years old and loves his cricket with a passion. Having been diagnosed at early age with Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1) and Autism, he has struggled with fibroma tumours, fine motor skills and depth perception difficulties but this has not stopped him from pursuing his love for the game. When he had a spinal fusion in early 2018 due to tumours pushing out his spine, causing scoliosis, we thought any further participation in sports would be hugely challenging, yet he has taken up cricket with a fervour, and his enthusiasm has lead to many personal improvements and encouragement from others in our community. When I showed Will’s story to Riley he was very moved by it and asked me if I would like to donate my old SS Jumbo bat that just sits in the shed now, gathering dust. When I agreed he asked if we could drive up to Bowral to hand it in personally! We live in Howlong NSW, on the Murray River between Albury and Corowa. We think what you guys are doing is awesome and Will’s story has really struck a chord with us. Thanks so much for that. We look forward now to heading up to donate a bat, seeing the magical oval where the greatest of all began his career, and we probably wouldn’t have done that if not for Will’s story.  Cheers! Sincerely, Bryan, Kylie and Riley Buchanan”.

We met and found very familiar ground with our boys. They did the Last Over together on Bradman Oval and with the Robbo 3rds. They opened the eyes wider to the teams of how much they seek to be included and how much they seek to be normal. I watched and smiled at how easy and effortless it was for inclusion to unfold. These boys are changing a deep cultural belief about disability and they are graciously opening their hearts to those who want to be the change.

Discrimination most commonly occurs from within our own communities. Being left out, being ignored or being judged. Simply for being different, being slower or not completely fitting into the norm. I can only imagine how we would all feel if we were excluded simply because we behaved differently.

True belonging means we do not change who we are .. it means we be who we are.  We be authentic and free of judgement. We can learn from Will and Riley and people like them that live in every community across Australia and the world. Let’s show up every day and be the change…anything less than acceptance and inclusion is ignorance. We .. I am sure, will be surprised at what comes in the ordinary moments of being present to compassion and kindness and cultivating relationships that inevitably change us for the better.