The Vinnies CEO Sleepout has overcome the challenges of COVID-19 to raise $5.7 million nationally, beating its target of $5.0 million to support homelessness services.
Across Australia over 1,550 business and community leaders braved the cold on Thursday 18 June as part of the first virtual Vinnies CEO Sleepout.
Originally set to take place in major cities with a focus on rough sleeping, the impact of COVID-19 saw the event revised for its 15th anniversary with participants nominating to sleep in cars, couches and backyards while tuning in for a live-stream hosted by television personality Dr Andrew Rochford.
Initial fundraising targets which started out at $2.5M in April 2020 as Australia grappled with the first wave of COVID were revised upwards as fundraisers saw greater participation and interest in the event.
The funds raised allow Vinnies to assist people experiencing or at risk of falling into homelessness with accommodation, food, healthcare and individualised support designed with the ultimate goal of providing a safe and permanent home.
National Council CEO Toby oConnor who spent the night in his veggie patch at his home in regional NSW said ‘It is humbling to experience what a night out in the cold feels like for too many people. It is also great to be able as individuals to come together as one large community around such an important cause and doing something that I know will make a difference for people Vinnies supports’.
Following a Welcome to Country by Wiradjuri woman Yvonne Weldon, the two-hour live stream saw host Dr Rochford speak with a number of participants and people with lived experience of homelessness.
Closing the night with a live cross to Adelaide, Nick Reade from Bank SA, was named the highest national fundraiser with over $225,000 – earning the highly coveted pillow sponsored by The Australian. ‘It’s great to support such an amazing organisation like Vinnies,’ said Nick. ‘I’d love to be able to solve homelessness and with my team, we’ve been able to raise money, awareness and make a direct contribution.’
Despite a once in a lifetime health and economic crisis, the Vinnies CEO Sleepout was able to go ahead in 2020 thanks to the work of staff, volunteers, sponsors and participants. ♦