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Abu joins sleepout in memory of special friend

May 6th, 2013

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A lifelong friend of Lee Halpin, the Newcastle filmmaker who lost his life sleeping rough whilst making a documentary on homelessness, is to take part in a sponsored sleepout in his memory.

With some of the funds raised from the CEO Sleepout, Tyneside businessman Abu Ali has vowed to complete the documentary his former schoolmate tragically lost his life in trying to make.

Abu will bravely join other members of the region’s business community, including colleague Carl Swansbury, for the sleepout on Tyneside on the night of Thursday, October 17.

The CEO Sleepout will see businessmen and women swap their pinstripe suits and briefcases for sleeping bags and layers of clothing as they try to stay warm throughout a cold October night.

It follows the success of a similar event held at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium in February, which saw 30 executives raise £30,000 for homeless charities on Teesside.

Lee, 27, died of hypothermia whilst sleeping rough in a derelict Newcastle building as part of a documentary he was making to experience what it was like to be homeless in his home city.

A corporate finance executive at Ryecroft-Glenton Chartered Accountants, Abu said: “Lee was one of my closest friends so his death has hit me really hard. We were school-mates at Heaton Manor, grew up together and we always met up regularly.

“He was always the most popular guy at school. He was captain of the football team, a writer, a poet, and so charismatic and articulate. I have no doubt that he’d have gone on to be a filmmaker of some note.

“Lee was always a passionate campaigner and was determined to raise the issue of homelessness. It’s just so sad that he has given up his life in doing so.

Now Abu has vowed to help friend Jody Irving complete the documentary.

“Jody was producing the documentary with Lee and left him in the building that night after filming him throughout the day. Lee sleeping out was the plan they agreed but Jody feels a lot of personal burden.

“He is determined to finish the documentary in Lee’s memory and I’m determined to do all I can by helping raise the money we need to fund it. My entire motive for taking part in the sleepout is to complete that documentary and do what Lee set out to achieve – raise awareness for homelessness. That way something good will come from his passing.”

Asked about the sponsored event, Abu admitted: “Sleeping rough is going to be hard for me to do. I’m apprehensive and friends have told me that they are scared for me, but we’ll be in a controlled environment with access to toilets and hot drinks, while we’ll naturally ensure we’re wrapped up warm.

“I’m probably as guilty as anyone else in not paying much attention to the homelessness around us. But Lee’s passing brought it into the headlines and completing the documentary would take that to another level.

“His preamble video for the documentary has already been seen by 140,000 people on Youtube. His aim was for the video to be seen by 50,000 people, so he has more than achieved his target.

“But we really want to make this huge. Hopefully, the finished documentary will be screened nationally.”

Andy Preston, who is organising the sponsored sleepout in his role as chairman of Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation, hopes a hugely successful Tyneside event will be a big step towards taking the CEO Sleepout concept onto a national stage.

He said: “If we can raise more than £30,000 via a Teesside event, then Tyneside, with a businesses community many times the size, should be able to smash that figure in aid of some very special homelessness causes in the region, including the completion of Lee’s documentary.

“But why shouldn’t CEO Sleepout be a national event? I see the Tyneside event as the first step in taking our local event regional and then on to the capital.”

Having taken part in the Middlesbrough sleepout with 35 fellow business leaders, Andy reflected: “Our executives found sleeping rough for a night very uncomfortable but ultimately a rewarding and humbling experience.

“The event will further raise the profile of the issues around homelessness but, most importantly, it does a lot of good for the charities that need the money.”

Sixteen businessmen and women have already signed up for the October event, which will involve a maximum of 50 people. For more details, visit www.ceosleepoutuk.com

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