26 April 2024

Flagstaff Group CEO stepping beyond Vinnies CEO Sleepout by running 1000 km

| Kellie O'Brien
Start the conversation
Rod Von Clark CEO Sleepout

Flagstaff Group CEO Rod Von Clark is tackling his fourth consecutive Vinnies CEO Sleepout. Photo: Supplied.

Flagstaff Group CEO Rod Von Clark has not only chosen to tackle his fourth consecutive Vinnies CEO Sleepout to raise awareness and funds for the homeless at a time when more people are having to sleep rough, but he’s challenged himself to also run 1000 km.

Rod said the Flagstaff group had been involved with the Vinnies CEO Sleepout for 10 years, with the previous CEO Roy Rogers tackling the first CEO Sleepout that was held in the Illawarra Shoalhaven.

“We really appreciate our relationship with Vinnies and not only have Roy and myself participated in the CEO Sleepout, I’ve also volunteered for the van that provides meals for the homeless at the Wollongong train station as well as at Warrawong,” he said.

However, Rod has decided to go a step further this year by committing to run 1000 km in the 10 weeks leading up to the sleepout in Wollongong on 20 June, with each kilometre symbolising the endurance needed to combat homelessness.

“I really wanted to spend the next 10 weeks to raise awareness of the situation that a lot of our homeless people are living with,” he said.

“I thought the best way to do that was to plan to run 1000 km in the 10 weeks leading up to Vinnie’s CEO Sleepout.

“I’m spending a lot of my mornings at the moment running on average 15 km, so I can reach that 100 km every week and I’ll reach that milestone of 1000 km on the night of the CEO Sleepout on 20 June.”

His early morning runs take him through the streets of Horsley and Unanderra, while he also takes advantage of trails at Mount Keira and Mount Kembla.

“On the weekend I did the equivalent of two half marathons on our trails to get my kilometres up,” he said.

“This Thursday (25 April), I will have hit 200 km, so I’m on track to reach the milestone.

READ ALSO Former troubled youth now mentoring young people through outdoor adventures

“What really helps me is there’s already been a few generous donations, so when I’m out there, hitting the pavement and hitting the trails, getting those kilometres up, it definitely motivates me to keep going.

“Every morning I’m hoping that not only has it helped raise some funds for the homeless, but also if I’m updating people through our social media about the progress, that’s keeping up the awareness of the plight of the homeless people that are living in our community as well.”

He said incorporating the run this year had initiated more conversations around homelessness, particularly at a time when the rate of homelessness was increasing due to the cost of living and the housing crisis.

“We’re living in a housing crisis at the moment and all it takes is one event for somebody unfortunately to find themselves homeless,” he said.

“It is not just the typical person you would identify as being a homeless person, there’s also people who are living rough, as in sleeping in their cars.

“They might also be sleeping on a friend’s lounge, because of the housing crisis that we’re in.

“So I think it’s even more important these days to raise awareness of the plight of people that don’t have an address or have a home.”

Regardless of the weather, each morning Rod rises at 4 am to add to his run total.

“Even this morning I was thinking about the fact it is a bit cool at the moment, but I’m only out here for an hour and a half, whereas there’s people right now who are out here and sleeping in this environment,” he said.

“They’re experiencing it day in and day out.”

READ ALSO Flying the flag at Flagstaff: outgoing CEO Roy Rogers hands over the reins to Rodney Clark

Rod was happy for others to join him.

“I also want to put the challenge out there if there’s any other business leaders who want to have a meeting on the run, I’m happy for them to come and join me,” he said.

As for the sleepout, Rod said he’d found the past couple to be rewarding experiences.

“I’m very lucky that in my life I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve been homeless, but I’ve found it rewarding being able to be involved with other local business leaders to contribute and to give back, but also to raise awareness of the situation that a lot of people in our community are living with,” he said.

“There are 122,000 people that are currently homeless.

“So if we can raise that awareness, as well as fundraise to contribute to our local Vinnies so they can support those that are homeless, I think that is the least that we can do.

“As my first year as CEO of the Flagstaff Group I think it’s a privilege to be able to contribute back to the community and support another organisation such as Vinnies, which is the charity that gives so much to the homeless in the Illawarra.”

He encouraged anyone who would like to contribute to donate and follow the journey on the Flagstaff Group website and Facebook.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.