Reilly’s rustic road to recovery


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By Kerrie Lush

A welder and a pair of tin snips have helped Barmera teenager Reilly Gilgen, 14, recover from anorexia over the past 12 months.

Desperate for assistance, his family had watched his health deteriorate during early 2015.

In May they were finally able to get him the help he needed and he was admitted to Flinders Medical Centre after his weight plummeted to 40kg.

“I could just see this kid wasting away and nobody was helping me,” his mum Jo recalls.

Reilly spent a month in the paediatric unit being treated for the eating disorder, before returning home to start the next stage of his recovery.

When he was well enough, his grandfather Ron, taught Reilly how to use a welder, hoping to spark a new interest.

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His first creation was a corrugated iron flower garden ornament, made for his mum.

She shared it with her Facebook friends and was inundated with more than 70 orders for Christmas. It was from there that Rustic Reilly was born.

To expand his range, Reilly and his family would fossick through the junk piles of family and friend’s fruit blocks, looking for materials and inspiration.

His range of wares quickly grew to include barb-wire ball animals ,recycled corrugated iron and apricot tray wall hangings, home decor and garden ornaments.

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“I feel like at the moment it’s gotten really big, really quickly,” says Jo.

The teenager, who is undertaking his year nine studies through the Open Access College at Marden, spends up to seven hours a day working on his creations.

Jo manages his sales and deliveries through the Rustic Reilly Facebook page as well as at local markets including the Barmera Main Street Markets and the upcoming Mammoth Monash Market.

“I take the orders and I tell him what he needs to make,” she says.

“Reilly’s very self-motivated – he just loves it.

“It gives him something to do with his time and keeps his mind active.

“He’s very driven with a good work ethic – it’s never a chore.”

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Reilly says he’s “not really sure” where his new business will take him in the future but hopes it could eventually lead to a building apprenticeship or job in a hardware store.

Reilly now has a healthy bank balance and while he still has a way to go, he has much healthier outlook on life.

“We never, ever thought he would get better, let alone get to this,” Jo says.

Header Photograph courtesy Will Slee, The Murray Pioneer.

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