Blake Ballard was just fifteen when the Wingham Skate Park opened. His passion for skating was already fully evident and our cameras captured him doing some pretty tricky moves that day.
Over the next few years Blake honed his skills, picked up some sponsors and was following his dream to become a professional skater.
He had relocated to Coffs Harbour where there was a strong skating culture and was subsiding his living costs by working at Bunnings.
I was given a 50/50 chance to survive.
But just as he was starting to truly peak in his sport, disaster struck.
Blake was hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing in Sydney in 2009 and spent nine days in a coma.
“I was given a 50/50 chance to survive,” he said.
His last memory was of leaving Coffs that day for the flight to Sydney.
Blake suffered a severe brain injury in the accident and spent the next three months in hospital.
“I thought I was fine,” he said of eventually leaving hospital.
Bunnings had kept his job open for him, even raising money to cover his rent while he was in hospital, and Blake jumped straight back into working.
But something was very different.
“The accident took away balance and coordination,” he said.
Skating no longer came easy and he had to learn all over again.
He also had to go through two years of rehab and Blake quickly realised his skating dreams had been wiped out.
It was time to move home.
“I didn’t have any hope. I didn’t think anything would change,” he said.
Blake had plunged into depression.
Luckily some seeds of love had been planted years before that would prove a lifeline for Blake.
“When I was little I always played in the garden with mum.”
His love of gardening gave him a new hope for the future and Blake dug deep for the drive to move forward with his new life.
Three years ago he launched Ballard’s Backyards and he hasn’t looked back.
Blake loves his work which includes looking after lawns and gardens at retirement homes in the Manning Great Lakes area as well as many private backyards in Wingham.
He’s hugely grateful for the help he has received from the local community and gives a shout out to fellow gardener Shane Dawson who passes along any extra work he can’t get to.
As for the skating.
Of course he didn't give up.
Blake still has a sponsor and skates as often as he can locally and overseas. His passion is as strong as ever.