Seventy-four of the city’s top business and community leaders spent a chilly, damp night sleeping on the street to raise more funds and awareness for homeless youth. The event was a humbling experience for some of the city’s top CEOs who raised more money than any event in our history—over $750,000.
Participants in the second annual Covenant House Executive Sleep Out recently bedded down with only a sleeping bag and piece of cardboard. They were led by Event Co-chairs Tim Leiweke, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) President and CEO, and Arlene Dickinson, CEO of Venture Communications and YouInc.com and venture capitalist on the CBC series Dragons’ Den.
The event attracted CEOs from many of Canada’s top companies, including Starbucks Canada President Annie Young-Scrivner, Porter Airlines President Robert Deluce, Sleep Country Canada Co-founder and President Christine Magee, Purolator President and CEO Patrick Nangle, ING Direct Canada President and CEO Peter Aceto and President of Samsung Electronics Canada James Politeski. Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, fashionista Jeanne Beker and our own Executive Director Bruce Rivers were also among the participants.
“It was uncomfortable but it was only a small glimpse of the hardship kids can face on the street,” explains Bruce. “We are overwhelmed and deeply grateful to our participants for their efforts in support of our kids. The commitment these industry leaders have made shows our kids that the business community cares about their wellbeing and believes in their potential.”
Arlene Dickinson, who also headed up last year’s inaugural event, said, “I believe strongly in the important work Covenant House does so I just couldn’t not participate again. Covenant House offers a foundation for kids who are struggling and helps to give them the best possible chance at getting off the street.”
“As a new Torontonian, I wanted to get involved and be a part of the solution for issues facing the community,” Leiweke explains. “Homelessness for anyone, but especially youth, is a problem that we must tackle together. I’m proud to co-chair this event but I think my part in this will be much easier compared to what homeless youth face on the street.”
Annie Young-Scrivner, the recently appointed President of Starbucks Canada, explains that she was inspired to participate as a mother of two young children. “It breaks my heart that over 10,000 kids in Toronto live and sleep on the street every year,” she says. “I know that sleeping out in the middle of winter for one night will not truly represent the experience of a homeless youth, but it will provide me more insight into their experiences and perhaps a better understanding of how I can contribute.”
Porter Airlines President and CEO Robert Deluce returned again this year after sleeping out last year. He found the experience illuminating. He explains, “You don’t get a good night’s sleep, you don’t want to be doing this every night and it is cold. That’s why it’s important to raise awareness and raise money for Covenant House to help kids build better futures.”