Eight current and former New South Wales cricketers including Australian wicketkeeper-batter and Breakers captain Alyssa Healy and her husband, Australian and Blues paceman Mitchell Starc, were among a host of athletes and sports people who participated in the inaugural Chappell Foundation ‘Sports Stars Sleepout’ on Sunday night.
The event involved several sporting stars from a range of sports who volunteered to sleep out on the SCG to raise awareness for the plight of homeless youth in Australia.
A key organizer for the event was Cricket NSW Life Member, former Australian and NSW Breakers player Lisa Sthalekar.
“When I first mooted this idea with the Chappell Foundation, I wasn’t sure how many sports stars would be willing to sleep out on the SCG on a wintry night, but I’ve been blown away by the amount of support,” said Sthalekar.
She was joined by six current players for the sleep out including Healy, Starc, fellow Blues players and Australian representatives Moises Henriques, Steve O’Keefe and Sean Abbott, as well as Australian and Breakers allrounder Ashleigh Gardner.
Former Blues allrounder Trevor Chappell was also among the current and former sports men and women to volunteer to sleep out in support of the foundation initiated by his brother, Australian cricket legend Greg Chappell.
Greg Chappell said on Sunday night that his shock at witnessing so many people sleeping out in the open in the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne, prompted him to focus the energy of the foundation towards youth homelessness.
“In a country like ours, I think it is unacceptable that we have over 100,000 people who are homeless,” Chappell said.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, young people aged between 12-24 years old account for at least 25% of the homeless population which was estimated at 116,427 people as per the 2016 Census.
Healy is an Ambassador for the Chappell Foundation and took on the role after a request from friend and Chairman of the charity, Darshak Mehta OAM.
“Obviously to be involved, firstly with the Chappell name, is something pretty special, but then to work alongside them to help promote their Foundation and raise some much-needed funds for some disadvantaged youth around the country was something I found really important,” Healy said.
O’Keefe said to support such an important cause, was an easy “yes”.
“When (Darshak) showed me the facts, him and Lisa … (and you look at all those people) under 24, who tonight won’t be able to sleep at home, I mean that really resonated and hit home,” O’Keefe said.
Likewise, Blues team mate Sean Abbott said it was an easy decision to volunteer for the sleep out.
“A lot of us are lucky enough in Australia to sleep in a big house in a big comfy bed, we’re quite an affluent country, so once I was made aware of all of the statistics (I) didn’t have to think twice about supporting such a great cause.”
Gardner said it was so sad to think that Australians every single day sleep on the street.
“The smallest act that I could do was to sleep on the SCG for one night,” said Gardner.
Sthalekar said it was important that sports stars were making the cause of youth homelessness visible.
“Certainly, as an athlete we’ve travelled around the world, we’ve stayed at pretty luxurious hotels, and we’ve also seen homelessness out in different countries, yet I don’t think all of us were ever aware of the amount of people (particularly youths) that are homeless here in Australia.”
“An event like this hopefully not only raises some important funds for organisations that are doing such a wonderful job at the coalface, but also just to raise awareness that this is an issue here in Australia.”