The bats certainly have a life …
It was decided at some point along this journey that we should showcase the bats and share the creativity with our community. So many people know Will and have been asking about what he is doing now that he has finished school. They have seen the bats in the window display in town and ask if this is something Will can do full time.
I hope it will be and I hope that it will continue to delight, inspire and create awareness around disability and ability. I love the connection and communication with the artists and the daily opening of the bats. The friends that stop us in the street to offer congratulations, the messages we receive about how proud and excited and the sharing of stories about our kids.
So like most things with the bats to date we responded to the demand and decided to have an exhibition in the Southern Highlands. The obvious choice being the International Cricket Hall of Fame, better known as the Bradman Museum. The bats were literally creating a life of their own.
The museum have known Will since he was little boy, age 5. He used to run into the museum looking curiously at all the items in the shop and I think forever hopeful the staff would offer him a treat of some sort. Many times they did and he returned to us with a little cricket bat. Always so kind and thoughtful. Rick McCarthy, the Bradman Ambassador at the time would come to the nets with Will and throw ball after ball to him. The nets became our go to place throughout the week.
As the years went by Will began playing in various teams with the Bowral Cricket Club including U16 and Bowral 3rds with our home grounds being the Bradman Oval, Stephens Park and Exeter.
We have a long history of cricket.
Rina Hore from the Museum gladly agreed to have the Exhibition and plans quickly got under way with a date finally set for Feb 17, the day after Wills 21st birthday.
Still the bats keep coming and I found time quickly began to get the best of me. How were we ever going to pull this off. I remember at some point crying, no sobbing, and thinking I can’t do all of this and I’m not even sure how to do it. IT in moments of uncertainty when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and stop pretending we can do it all the right people come forward to help. That person was Karen Williamson, a friend of Caz Maule. Karen took on the role of administrator and with her amazing skills managed to bring all the artist details together and create profiles to allow us to place the bats on an auction site. There were invitations to go, catering to arrange, a database to manage, a slideshow to create, a display to pull together and an Exhibition to organise. With her help we did it and found ourselves with a guest list of over 150 people, media attention and buyers.
Wills dad James, built out beautiful stands that showcased the 60 bats inside the museum and to this day are still used to showcase the bats in the foyer of the Museum.
Whilst all of this was being arranged the ABC 7:30 Report came to film, ABC Illawarra did an onsite live radio program and the NDIS was requiring our attention.
Thankfully we also had ANALA our Disability Services organisation that provided our mentors through he NDIS funds. Stephen Hughes was Wills mentor and what an amazing person and friend he became. Throughout this whole experience Stephen continued to take Will to the Mens Shed to sand the bats and create new experiences for Will to further develop his skills. ANALA were a life saver for our family throughout this time and Stephen a constant in Wills life.
The Exhibition day arrived and with a few hours remaining I needed to go home and change and find a moment to reflect on this moment. In such a short period of time these beautiful bats and this incredible community around Will had evolved into an Exhibition.
Phoebe, our daughter rallied her friends and cousins and they were at the museum entrance as the meet and greet. My brother Geoff and his son Matty were our photographers. James had prepared the display for our bats with such care. I felt such a sense of pride. It was almost overwhelming. Dave Debs was singing in the background and people arrived. So full of praise and encouragement for Will.
Paul Milner was our auctioneer for the evening and brought the audience to life. Bats were showcased from local schools and artists, from those who were integral in getting Willo bats off the ground and the extraordinary. Many of our artists were on hand to speak to buyers and share in the fun of the evening. Enough money was raised to start the business.
So we celebrated Wills birthday with a beautiful cake from Gumnut, said our thanks and everyone departed. My family sat for a while .. and with very few words, spoke about their thoughts and realised the enormity of what had just unfolded.
So many years of fitting in and waiting. So many challenges to simply have Will involved. To this moment … it was all about him.