In between the chaotic bliss of planning a wedding and catching up with friends and relatives over the weekend, Charles and I managed to squeeze in the mass charity sleepout at Sydney Centennial Park. It has been quite a while since our last camp out in the bush and we thought it would be nice to do it smack dab in the urban jungle – but this time for a good cause.
The event was sponsored by HRX in partnership with Mission Australia and all funds raised goes directly to its Youth Homeless Service. (HRX is a private company running a program called HRX Giving, which helps raise awareness and funds for World Homeless Day).
I haven’t been to Centennial Park and spending the weekend camping out with live music, outdoor cinema and karaoke while giving back something to the community was like hitting 3 birds with one stone. And so off we went with just our packs and gear quite excited to sleep under the stars now that the weather had started to feel more like spring.
With the help of the ever-reliable GPS, we made it to the sleepout site on a large sporting field around three in the afternoon. Centennial Park is massive and rather pleasant to explore but we darted straight to the campground to find a good spot to pitch our tent and to calm down our grumbling tummy. We hadn’t really eaten anything that day except for some bickies and cookies that we had during teatime at the baptism ceremony we attended in the morning.
There weren’t as many people as we had expected but it was just the kind of afternoon we were looking for. I was actually looking forward to reading my book and later on catching some movies at the outdoor cinema before retiring to our tent. Originally, we planned on bringing our own food and having picnic here but later on decided to buy all our meals from the food stalls after learning that all proceeds also go to the charity.
Some of the performers from Creative Youth Initiative Bands
The highlight of the event for me was probably the performances of the multi-awarded country singer Paul Costa and Australian Idol runner-up Hayley Warner. She totally rocked the stage belting out some original tunes from her upcoming album and capped it with a song from Pink. She did some awkward but entertaining dance moves and came down from the stage and interacted with members of the audience, which made the atmosphere a tad livelier.
Australian Idol runner up Hayley Warner workin the stage.
Country singer Paul Costa
Although I’m not a big fan of the long-running Australian soap opera Home and Away nor have watched a single complete episode, it was quite amusing to see some young Aussie fans get excited to see one of its cast – Luke Mitchell. He was quite charming and affable and gladly obliged to have his picture taken while having a short chat with those who had approached him.
Special Guest Star Luke Mitchell of Home and Away
Later that night more live music followed, including performances from veteran rockers at the main arena, but we found ourselves now cosily snug in front of the 30ft. screen while sharing a plate of seafood barbie. The rugby semi-final between France and Wales was on to the delight of Charles and the other blokes, who for some reason were all cheering for the red jersey of Wales.
I only watch this rather brutal game (with all its tackling, body slamming and brain crashing spectacle) for a few minutes and only during the time when Kiwis are doing the Haka, so I found myself reading again by torchlight while waiting for the movie “Invictus” to start. Little did I know that this movie was also about rampaging men in rubgy shorts (only this time with the amiable Nelson Mandela in it) so I ended dozing off halfway into the movie.
The night was balmy but somewhere in middle of Adam Sandler’s flick our sleeping bag started to get damp from the dew, so we abandoned the idea of sleeping under the stars with just our sleeping bags and headed inside the comfort of our tent.
Some youngsters who braved the cold night.
In between the shows, the organizers auctioned some sponsored items including expensive lingerie, hotel accommodation, and a video recorder, as well as art works from students of Mission Australia. Surprisingly despite the small turn out, the event managed to raise about a hundred thousand dollars (mostly from online donations) surpassing the funds raised the previous year. Not only was this event held for a worthy cause, but it was immensely entertaining as well – see you there again next year!