In November, Harvey ‘The Hurricane’ Stringer defeated Professional Darts Corporation Tour Card Holder Steve West at an exhibition event in Grantham, Lincolnshire, sharing the stage with world number one Michael van Gerwen and the now-retired Wayne Mardle.
After such a victory, Harv, a VIP at the event, quickly became a fans’ favourite and had a busy evening going from table to table signing programmes and having photographs.
His moment of stardom came a month after defeating Nathan Derry and Billy Gallie in a competitive pairs tournament – Nathan being another PDC Tour Card holder. Harv linked up with Charlie Gray for the event, both of whom have autism.
Harv also stepped up to the oche at the Alexandra Palace last year, the most iconic stage in darts, after an invite from PDC CEO Matt Porter and consequently featured in the local press, with Twitter followers now growing almost every day.
“I’m the legend youth boy!” chuckled Harv.
“You are called a legend quite a lot,” replied his mum, Clare, with a smile. “And you are only 10.”
It is easy to forget Harv’s age – a loveable and mischievous young man, maybe too young to truly realise the significant impact he is having on the wider world.
His mum, on the other hand, is all too aware.
“Every time I see him play, my heart just fills with pride – that’s the same with anything my children do,” said Clare, who has three boys.
“Harvey has made such an impact on Twitter; people are just thankful that they have seen someone out there with autism doing what they do and not letting it affect them.
“We feel very fortunate that Harvey has been taken in; people seem to have gravitated to him.
“He has already inspired many to just get out there and follow their interests, and if we are doing something to raise awareness of autism, I know I am doing my job.”
Although Harv can experience sensory overloads in raucous crowds, it has not stopped him and his parents from hitting the road to pursue darts, whether as a fan or a player.
“We weren’t sure how he would take to the noise, so we brought him some earphones and took him to one of the Premier League finals, and he really enjoyed it. From there, we’ve gone to several different arenas.
“Harvey found it more difficult being at home and playing darts [in lockdown] because he’s not around the people he is normally with. He plays at youth county level and mixes with his friends and misses seeing everyone he loves.
“He is a very sociable boy and likes to meet people; he doesn’t get starstruck by anybody. We’ve met Barry Hearn [PDC Chairman] on a few occasions now and Harvey is just happy to have a chat with him like he sees him every day.
“We had started doing the JDC [Junior Darts Corporation] Tour, and then COVID-19 happened so we couldn’t continue with that anymore. But when Steve Brown [professional darts player] brought out the JDC virtual, Harvey wasn’t so keen on that because he wanted to go to the venue.
“Hopefully, we can get back on it next year if all is well.”
When asked if he would like to play at the top levels, Harv answered very modestly, purely throwing darts for the joy it brings, at least for now.
And despite the challenges of lockdown, the Stringers relished the opportunity to be close to Harv at the family dartboard, providing hugs, fist bumps, and moral support during other virtual competitions – support that has catalysed his improvement.
The Wickham Skeith youngster also records every 180 score he hits and keeps a monthly tally of his progress. He has twice increased his target for 2020 already and has a burning desire for a nine-dart finish.
“Which you haven’t done yet, have you?” asked Clare.
“I wish I did!” said Harv.
“He hits them [180s] so easily,” Clare continued. “I’ve been close, I’ve got the 140, the 120, but I never managed to quite fill that treble 20 bed up. How does it feel when you hit a 180, Harvey?”
Harv gave a nonchalant shrug. He eats 180s for breakfast.
“I once hit four in one hour,” he said.
“Yes, he just reeled them off,” remembered Clare. “I could hear them in the kitchen: another one, and another one! He loves it.
“You can definitely see the improvement over the last couple of years, and everyone in the Suffolk team loves Harvey to bits.
“My cousin also plays, she’s on the senior Suffolk A-Team. She’s brilliant, and she’ll come over and have a game with Harvey, although not so much now for obvious reasons. We’ll go to hers and play, so it’s nice that we have someone in the family that also plays darts.”
Harv’s own passion for darts stems from the Stringer living room. At the age of three, he would copy the players on the television while using his mum’s hairclips as darts and throwing them at the floor.
Now, seven years later, Harv has grown up around darts while Clare has become his full-time personal agent, chef, nurse, media manager and autism advocate.
But Clare knows she cannot do it all alone.
“My parents have been brilliant because they have looked after the younger one [Oakley, aged four] whenever we have gone out and done exhibitions or county games.
“I’m lucky I get to stay at home, and I’m glad that I do because I would miss quite a lot of what we’ve been part of.
“Wayne [Mardle] is also amazing. He was the first person in the darts world that we met and, unfortunately for him in the last couple of years, he hasn’t been able to get rid of us!
“Everyone has been superb, Devon Petersen, Stephen Bunting, Gerwyn Price, and we are very thankful to Matt [Porter].
“A friend of ours, Henry Cheal, started the ‘Autism In Darts’ Twitter page and is also autistic. Henry is a massive support, a lovely lad.
“I’ve had a lot of people with autism follow Harvey, and it’s a nice little community to be a part of.
“I’d like to see more autistic people take part, get on that stage and throw a dart, and believe in themselves.”