Adelaide Day Surgery CEO Emma Lyndon recently swapped her comfortable bed for a sheet of cardboard to help raise more than $900,000 for Australians experiencing homelessness.
Ms Lyndon was one of more than 100 Adelaide business leaders who took part in the annual St Vincent de Paul CEO Sleepout on a night that turned out to be extremely wet and cold.
“Two days before the sleepout the weather forecast was looking grim, so I wore the warmest, most waterproof jacket I could find, but even then I was very underprepared,” she said.
“A piece of cardboard, a pillow and a tarp were allowed and we had to work out a way to not let the water in.”
Ms Lyndon was nominated by a friend for the CEO Sleepout and said she took on the challenge after seeing the impact of COVID-19 on Adelaide’s streets.
“I don’t think you can walk through any city in Australia without seeing evidence of people who are doing it really tough,” she said.
“Everyone is feeling the effects of the pandemic.
“Within our organisations, as senior managers we are supporting staff through this crisis and the challenges for individuals and their families is real, either due to mental health or job losses.”
Ms Lyndon said the hardest part of the night was not the heavy downpour but simply trying to find somewhere safe to sleep – not that she got much sleep at all.
“It was really anxiety-provoking,” she said.
“I could tell the people who had participated in the sleepout before, as they knew exactly where to go, and if you were lucky enough to sleep against the edge of the building you could try to get a little bit of shelter from the rain.
“It really made me think about the challenges people experiencing homelessness face, and the struggle they would have trying to find somewhere safe to sleep each night.”
In South Australia alone, there are more than 6,000 people who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Ms Lyndon had an initial goal to raise $4,000 but through creative fundraising, she achieved more than $7,500 as the group of leaders brought in over $933,000 for the cause.
In addition to generous online donations, local businesses donated prizes for a raffle, and she also held a secondhand clothes sale.
“I was completely overwhelmed and ecstatic when I hit that figure,” Ms Lyndon said.
“I am extremely grateful for my friends, family and colleagues who supported me and in turn, St Vincent de Paul.”