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Sleeping in to make a difference


Spending time volunteering with people experiencing homelessness and sleeping rough gave Debbie Sterrey a different insight into their lives and has provided the motivation for her participation in the Vinnies CEO Sleepout being held this month.

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Debbie, who is the CEO of Tennis SA, said as part of her community service with the Governor’s Leadership Foundation program she met a family who had been living in a car for about six months. One of the children was a similar age to Debbie’s daughter and learning about their experience hit her hard.

“I decided then that I would definitely participate in the CEO Sleepout one year as a way to help,” Debbie said.

Taking over as head of Tennis SA in 2019, Debbie went one step further by offering the newly redeveloped Memorial Drive as the venue for this year’s sleepout.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions the June 18 event will now be live streamed, with participants sleeping in their cars, on their couch or in their back yard.

Debbie has chosen to spend the night on her couch but said there would be no pillows or heating on as she tries, in a small way, to imagine what it is like for the almost 6000 South Australians who are experiencing homelessness.

“I am really pleased to support and be a part of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout for the first time this year and it’s great to have the support of tennis CEOs from around Australia,” Debbie said.

“COVID-19 has certainly changed the way we do things, but sadly homelessness is an ongoing problem in our community. Hopefully the event will again encourage empathy, increase awareness, as well as raising money for a worthy cause.

“Tennis SA is pleased to be a supporter of this event and we look forward to hosting the Vinnies CEO Sleepout at Memorial Drive in 2021.”

Debbie, who was a star junior tennis player for SA, said once she signed up for the event her competitive nature had kicked in. Her husband raised $16,000 when he participated a few years ago so she is hoping her friends and business colleagues will give generously for such a worthy cause.

Vinnies CEO Louise Miller Frost, who will also be participating in the event, said funds raised through the sleepout will be used for crisis accommodation, food, financial counselling and finding permanent homes for those in need.

If you would like to make a donation to the Vinnies CEO Sleepout go to




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