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Jon Wilson uses bowls platform to raise autism awareness

England’s Jon Wilson shocked the crowds at Potters Resort at this year’s World Indoor Championships with his walk-on music of ArrDee’s Hello Mate ft. Kyra, a tune that probably wouldn’t make the playlist of the majority of spectators inside the International Arena in Hopton-on-Sea.

Wearing ear defenders himself, it wasn’t to block out the rapper’s beats, but to highlight the importance of raising awareness of autism.

Following his preliminary round win over Scott Edwards, comments on social media mocked Wilson’s delivery style, which often made a noticeable echo as his bowls crashed against the floorboard underneath the blue carpet.

“The next person who Jon plays will need ear defenders,” wrote one spectator, who probably didn’t mean that comment so literally.

However, Jon’s former teammate, Lee Barber, approached the Wey Valley bowler with a £50 wager if he did wear such headwear for his succeeding first round clash with Jamie Chestney.

Instead of pocketing the cash, Wilson proposed to donate the money to a charity of Barber’s choice with the National Autistic Society chosen as the beneficiary.

Barber, whose nine-year-old daughter Lily has autism, picks up the story: “I encouraged Jon to wear the headphones to raise awareness for people who generally need them in everyday life, such as my daughter who has autism and struggles with loud noises and different sounds,” he told Bowls International.

“Autism awareness is so important to me so that we can try and to show and help others understand that some people are just that little different and might need some additional support, and to recognise that it is not a bad or an embarrassing thing.”

Jon adds: “Everyone who knows me knows I am quite a daredevil – I like to entertain and have a laugh. Obviously, people were commenting on the first game about how my delivery was bouncing and writing hilarious comments bantering me.

“I thought that this might be my only time ever qualifying for the World Indoor Championships at Potters, so why not – this could be my one chance to be here so I might as well be remembered for it.

“My niece and nephew have autism, and I have ADHD myself, so it was good to raise awareness to everyone that not everyone is the same and sometimes disabilities aren’t visible.”

Kate Vickers, individual giving and supporter fundraising lead at the National Autistic Society, said: “We’d like to say a big thank you to Jon for raising funds for the National Autistic Society, and using his platform to increase understanding of autism.

“At least one in 100 people are autistic, which means more than 700,000 people in the UK, so a better understanding of autism across society could improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of autistic people. All money raised will help to transform lives, change attitudes and create a society that works for autistic people.”

More than £400 had been raised. If you would like to donate, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lee-barber9

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