ON Wednesday May 22 thirteen Rainbow residents met with Ange Clarke, her son Will and mother Carol, from Willo Industries, at the Oasis site.

After an afternoon tea was enjoyed by everyone, Ange gave an inspiring talk as she detailed how a project to help Will, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder, has galvanised people from all over Australia. Ange began by thanking everyone for coming. She then said what a wonderful time she, Will and Carol had experienced over the three days they had been in Rainbow. She said it was an incredible community and town. During their time in the town Will had played cricket, soccer and football with students at Rainbow P-12 College.

The students had been most enthusiastic in welcoming Will and making him feel at home.

There are everyday challenges living with Will from his childhood until now when he is an adult. But Ange always wanted open doors for Will to be a part of the community. His love of sport saw her come up with the idea of him painting refurbished cricket bats.

This soon saw over 380 artists joining in over many communities around Australia.

They worked on 420 bats with 320 of them being sold. As well as bats, skateboards, baseball bats and outrigger paddles have been turned into fantastic works of art.

Will has appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 Report two times and on other media outlets, which has sparked even more interest in the project.
There have been exhibits of the bats at the International Cricket Hall of Fame at Bowral in NSW along with Kiama and Bulli in that state.

Other exhibits have been staged in Perth, St Kilda and Warooka in South Australia. This is where Belinda Eckermann from Rainbow met Ange, Will and Carol and invited them to visit the community.

In the coming months there will be exhibitions in Rainbow, Geelong, Glenn Innes and Robertston.

Former prime minister, John Howard, has been a great supporter of Will and a friend to him. Mr Howard donated a bat used in the Prime Ministers eleven game against New Zealand in 2002 to the project.

Eight bats were handed out to those at the meeting. These bats were the first bats that had been refurbished by Hands on Learning students at the Rainbow P-12 College.

Mal Smith said that the students had been divided into groups with many of them learning new skills as they cleaned stickers off the bats and sanded them.

The bats will be exhibited at the Turbo Gallery in October.
Proceeds from the sale of the bats will be injected back into the community.

During her stay in Rainbow Ange also visited Warracknabeal and was amazed with the work the Woodbine organisation does for people with disabilities and how accepting the town is of its work.

She met with the CEO of Woodbine, Bernie O’Connor, and discussed setting up a partnership between Woodbine and the Rainbow community to set up a Willo Industries hub in Rainbow with Woodbine providing a mentoring role.