International Day of People with a Disability: how trust gave Angela Clarke hope

THE POWER OF TRUST: Angela and William Clarke with the bats they were presented with by local artists on Friday. Pictures: Brodie Owen

THE POWER OF TRUST: Angela and William Clarke with the bats they were presented with by local artists on Friday. Pictures: Brodie Owen

IT WAS midnight when Angela Clarke took the call that would take the world off her shoulders.

Emergency services had just found her autistic son, William, after he went missing near dense bushland in St Ives, in the northern suburbs of Sydney.

“I remember sitting on the ground and for the first time I felt myself breathing,” Ms Clarke revealed.

“It was like slow motion. And the words ‘found, we have him, safe’ sounded like they were coming from a loudspeaker.”

It was the most gut-wrenching ordeal for the Bowral mother, who feared the worst for her son, and a brief insight into the sometimes harrowing experiences tied to raising an autistic child.

Ms Clarke courageously told her 20-year journey with raising William – who cannot read or write and has difficulty sequencing events – to members of disability employment organisation Castel Personnel at Newcastle City Hall on Friday.

Her story coincided with Saturday’s International Day of People with a Disability.

Ms Clarke impressed on the audience a need to “come into the world” of people with a disability.

Stressing the importance of trust, Ms Clarke said her son William had more independence than ever before.

Ironically, she learned to trust her son more when he was found after being lost for 24 hours.

OLD BECOMES NEW: William Clarke, who lives with autism, recycles old bats and turns them into something new.

OLD BECOMES NEW: William Clarke, who lives with autism, recycles old bats and turns them into something new.

“The phone call came to say he was sitting in a bus shelter 10 kilometres [from where he went missing],” Ms Clarke said.

“He was shivering and to this day I have no idea of his thoughts – if he was scared or how he got so far away. 

“I drove home the next day sobbing uncontrollably; my fears exposed themselves.

“I have since learned the lesson of letting him go and trusting his abilities.

“I have never felt that level of fear again.”

Since Ms Clarke “let go”, William has surprised time and time again – and has since proved quite the entrepreneur.

William has set up a business, where he turns his passion for cricket into works of art, recycling old cricket bats and enlisting artists to use them as a blank canvas.

FROM BEACH TO BAT: Newcastle artist John Earle and his painting of Newcastle Beach on a bat donated to William Clarke.

FROM BEACH TO BAT: Newcastle artist John Earle and his painting of Newcastle Beach on a bat donated to William Clarke.

On Friday, he was presented two bats painted by artists John Earle, of Newcastle, and Josh Walters, of Lake Macquarie.

They are two more to the collection and will be auctioned off in Canberra to raise funds for the business, which soon hopes to employ people with a disability and provide ongoing support.

Other bats have been donated by celebrities Ernie Dingo and Jimmy Barnes, while former prime minister John Howard has donated a bat from the PM’s XI 2002 match against New Zealand.

William’s business is called “Willow Industries”.

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