$235k … Whitelion fundraiser takes the lion’s share!

Whitelion is celebrating the success of its inaugural Bail Out Week, hitting a grand total of $235,000 raised to help youth at risk. The money will assist the non-profit organisation with the essential work it does to build meaningful relationships and create opportunities for young people who have become disconnected from our community.

Whitelion CEO Mark Watt said: “Our first ever Bail Out Week was a fantastic success. We’re ecstatic to have raised such a large sum of money. Fundraising is a challenge at any time, so I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to everybody who got involved this year. The money raised will go straight back into our programs and directly impact those young people who need it most.

“Events like Bail Out Week mean we can help more kids who have suffered because of abuse, neglect, drug addiction, poverty and those who have been involved with the youth justice and welfare systems. The week has also helped us to raise awareness about the work we do and to educate the public about how they can help reconnect these young people with society and reach their full potential.”

Following the success of Whitelion’s annual Bail Out fundraisers, the activities were extended to run for an entire week this year, from Monday 24 to Friday 28 May. Activities included fun and innovative events to engage the public, as well as some more serious public discussion about the issues facing today’s youth.

Online Bail Out

Whitelion gave people across Australia the chance to make a difference by inviting them to get involved in their online Bail Out. This saw 197 members of the public virtually locking themselves up online and inviting friends, family and colleagues to make donations so that they could raise enough ‘bail’ to be freed.

They were joined by television personality Mark Holden, golfing ace Stuart Appleby, Olympic gold medallist Michael Klim, captain of Melbourne Vixens Bianca Chatfield, Melbourne Heart FC’s Matt Thompson and radio personality George McEncroe, who all signed up to the first online Celebrity Bail Out.

Youth Justice Forum

The week itself got off to a flying start as a sell out crowd of 105 people attended Whitelion’s first ever Youth Justice Forum. ‘Lock me up or bail me out?’ was the topic for discussion by a panel of experts. Keynote speaker Daryl Gardener was joined by Magistrate Brian Barrow, criminologist and ex-offender Arthur Bolkas, Child Safety Commissioner Bernie Geary and Robyn Miller of the Department of Human Services. The lively debate saw discussion of the issues associated with ‘locking up’ at risk youth versus rehabilitation and integration back into society.

Schools Bail Out

Later in the week, students from Keysborough College attended Whitelion’s inaugural ‘School’s Bail Out’ event which was held in conjunction with National Trust. Using improvised drama techniques and group problem solving, the students explored the issue of knife crime among young people and developed it into a theatrical courtroom drama and experience.

Inmate experience

The culmination of the week was the Inmate Experience at Old Melbourne Gaol, which saw 135 volunteer inmates physically locked up in the cells! They were each given one phone and one monetary target of $1,000 before they could be freed and join a glamorous cocktail party. These inmates included teams from Victoria Police and Melbourne Fire Brigade, as well as corporate teams from the likes of L’Oreal, NAB, Bovis Lend Lease, KFC and Australian Taxation Office.

Parole Party

Three hundred guests donned their finest evening wear for the cocktail party for the Parole Party at Old Melbourne Gaol to welcome the inmates out and help celebrate as they were released. The night included belly dancers, fire breathers and stilt walkers roaming the Gaol, as guests enjoyed an eclectic array of entertainment including live music from former Rogue Traders drummer Cam McGlinchey, Natalie Bassingthwaite, Indigenous group Djiva, swing dancers, a burlesque show and even a silent disco.