While homelessness confronts hundreds of thousands of Australians every day, it was the trauma of watching his own grandfather struggle with alcoholism as a child that cemented the seriousness of the issue in his heart.
“As a child I saw my grandfather struggle with alcoholism and homelessness, and gain support from Vinnies at the Matthew Talbot Hostel,” said Kelly.
Despite raising $68,000 in last year’s CEO Sleepout and collectively with other leaders over a staggering $250,000 this year, Kelly says the issue is only worsening.
“There is a growing percentage of our population getting into hardship through no fault of their own, especially with the recent impact of COVID-19,” he continued.
“When many people donate whatever they can – even if it’s not much individually – each contribution adds up. It makes a direct difference to people who need a bed for the night, a good feed and some clean clothes. Most importantly, Vinnies helps provide permanent pathways out of homelessness.”
While last week’s annual event was hosted virtually for the majority of participants, Kelly and a few insurance executives braved the cold on the top floor of the Macquarie Bank Building in Sydney to participate in the event.
“Macquarie kindly gave us the outdoor area of their 15 Martin Place premises for us to put 15 or 16 people there and they also very kindly put out all the isolation areas so we could go to a safe spot,” Kelly continued.
“It just shows that, regardless of the fact that we’re competitors, that we can, at crucial times in life, pull together.”
Additionally, Kelly says it was through the industry’s collective efforts that he, alongside other executives, was able to fundraise such a significant sum of money.
“I think it’s nice to be able to see a range of competitors who have no ego become involved in this, coming together in a cohort for a cause like this,” he added.
“We’ve raised money purely through the network of people who we know and just simply going to them and saying ‘look, we think it’s a worthy cause, we’re going to sleep out, if you feel the same way please get on the web and donate some money to us’.”
Utilising his network and approaching the CEOs of insurance and broking companies meant he could widely publicise the event and engage people to join in.
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“That will then bring money and awareness in,” he said. “I get excited when somebody donates $25 or $10. A lot of people contributing a small amount of money to somebody who’s going through a bit of trouble and having one night of inconvenience makes a difference.”
But it’s also been a challenge for Kelly to witness what he believes is a social issue with many Australians denying its prevalence.
“This is not what you would call a clean cause. It’s a dirty cause – you have people sleeping and dying in the streets. People don’t like to recognise that it actually exists in modern society, especially because we’re fortunate enough to live in in Australia,” he explained.
“I think raising so much money is a testament to the fact of how good people can be sometimes when they see a cause that’s not populous.”