This may not be the day to ask your boss for a pay rise, if he or she took part in the St Vincent de Paul CEO Sleepout last night. As the rain poured down and temperatures plummeted, 220 CEOs and business leaders gathered at Luna Park to spend a night sleeping out to raise money for the homeless.
David Starr from St Vincent de Paul said it had been going for four years and had rained every single year. The rule was that you could bring a sleeping bag, but not a mat, and you were given a sheet of cardboard to sleep on. I did a quick check of the main room, inside the dodgem hall, and it appeared that unbelievably, no-one had cheated (Dick Pratt would have loved it.) One of the CEOs observed that for anyone who had been to boarding school in the 1960s, this was “looxury”.
When I left at 10pm they had raised $500,000 and the biggest individual fund raiser was Michael Rose, chief executive partner at Allens Arthur Robinson, who had raised $16,000. When I asked Rose, who was wearing an original German submariner’s jacket he had bought at a market for four pounds, how he had managed to raise so much money, he said “what’s the point in knowing 2000 North Shore Catholics if I can’t get money from them?”
The team from Clayton Utz, headed up by senior partner Mary Still (in a beautiful hand-knitted ski jumper and pearls) had raised more than $20,000.
Starr said the call had gone out two to three months ago and they had been overwhelmed by interest. The website had a section where PAs could dob in their boss to go — on the night, Dick Smith’s business card was pulled out of a hat, so his PA won a night at the Shangri La.
Fairfax Media CEO Brian McCarthy (Wallaby jersey, no beanie, he must have frozen) said he got a lot of satisfaction in helping people who were less fortunate than himself (as long as they were not Fairfax journalists) and the CEO of DMG Radio Australia Cathy O’Connor said this would be no problem as she was used to camping with her teenage children.
Steve Corbett the Chief Executive of the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust told a story about a homeless man called Neil Barker who had died in the park but who had been so well-known to the staff, they had dedicated a tree to his memory. And for those people interested in homeless lagomorphs, the good news is that the park is now rabbit-free for the first time since white settlement. According to Steve (thick polarfleece, very sensible) they used a combination of calicivirus, myxamatosis and shotguns. But next time you go to the park and your toddler says, “where’s Peter Rabbit?”, just say “asleep.”
Tony, who called himself a “rough sleeper”, sang a great version of the Sly and the Family Stone song “Beautiful People”, which is a plea for peace and equality between differing races and social groups. He said before he came, he had asked his friends what he should say to the group.
“They said to say ‘thank you. We don’t want to see kids ending up where we are.”
“It’s going to be funny watching you guys go to sleep, by the way.”
The crowd was so large I couldn’t find Pfizer Australia MD John Latham to ask him whether, as libidos plummet in a recession (it’s in the New York Times so must be true) is this good or bad news for Pfizer? Do Viagra sales plummet as retrenched bankers sob into their pillows or do they increase because they need the extra help? i.e. do I buy Pfizer stock or short it?
By the time I left at 10pm, my feet were numb with cold, but the really good thing was that I could go home, pour a glass of red wine and follow the night on Twitter, complete with photos. 11.20pm Lots of CEOs wondering what they’ve done as they walk back to their cardboard. Goodnight! 11.40 Cardboard, check… sleeping bag, check… some exec snoring like a trooper… CHECK! 7am. must be excited about the 5.45am prayer service as have awoken at 5am. Decision to sleep outside under awning next to harbour fully vindicated. Much complaining about mass snoring by all the softies who slept inside.
By 7.30 this morning the total had risen to $520,000. Most people went straight to the office to have a shower and start the day. Just don’t let them operate any heavy machinery.