Longtime supporters of Grow a Star will know Kallan Strong. He is pictured here with Grow a Star Coordinator Shane Marshall and Home in Place Events and Community Relations Manager Michelle Faithfull.
Kallan was referred to the Grow a Star program in 2015 by his paediatrician. He was just 15 and dealing with bullying and stigma associated with his Autism Spectrum Disorder. Kallan had a passion for the sport of ten pin bowling at the time and found this was a place he could escape the noise and focus on something that made him happy.
Kallan’s mum, Lee, said the Grow a Star program has been instrumental in helping Kallan to reach the top level in his sport. Originally, the program assisted him with specialist coaching for six months and this enabled him to get to his first national championships in Melbourne in 2015.
Over the past seven years, Kallan has been selected to compete in the NSW state team at the National Disability Titles, captaining the team for the last three years and he travelled to Melbourne in June 2022 to defend their national title once again. Kallan has competed in countless state and national championships, winning over 160 medals and numerous titles.
His achievements in the sport helped him to earn a place in the Central Coast Queen’s Baton Relay for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and he was awarded “Athlete with a Disability - Bowler of the Year” at the TBA NSW State Awards in 2019.
In 2020, Kallan completed his Diploma of Photography & Design at TAFE and in 2021 he was awarded, Student of the Year and Creative Design Ideation Student of the Year at the TAFE Excellence Awards in 2021.
He set up his own photography business in 2021 (Kallan Strong Photography) and has already won several photography competitions and recently engaged his first business clients, photographing several events and numerous wedding on the Central Coast, Port Stephens and Sydney. He has also been a finalist in the Central Coast Sports Awards every year since 2018 and was a nominee as Sportsperson with a Disability of the Year at the Central Coast Sports Awards in 2021.
In 2022 Kallan was finally crowned Disability Athlete of the Year at the Central Coast Sports Awards and was a finalist in the NSW Sports Awards in the same category. He also participated in the Para Athletic World Cup in Brisbane and came away with three gold medals and is now the new Para Athletic World Champion, with an invitation to play in the World Cup events in Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines in the future.
Kallan and his mum, Lee don’t have much family around and Lee says the financial support from Grow a Star and particularly the mentoring from Coordinator, Shane Marshall has been really important for both of them.
“To have other people show an interest in you and support you in reaching your goals has been so beneficial for Kal." says Lee.