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National Storage Board Chairman takes on the Youngcare Simpson Desert Challenge

National Storage Board Chairman takes on the Youngcare Simpson Desert Challenge

National Storage is proud to partner with Youngcare – a charity organisation with a profound goal to create safe spaces for Australians with high physical support needs. The Youngcare Home Support Grant program is at the heart of our partnership; however, Youngcare also facilitate numerous other initiatives to raise funds and awareness for their clients. One such initiative is the Simpson Desert Challenge.

Our Board Chairman, Tony Keane, participated in the 2023 Simpson Desert Challenge, traversing the harsh landscape of the Australian desert to show his support for Youngcare. Given the enormity of this challenge, and how close it is to our hearts, we couldn’t let the opportunity pass us by to sit down with Tony to discuss his experience. Here’s what he had to say!

Tony, tell us a bit about yourself? What is your role at National Storage?

I have been involved with National Storage for many years, initially through business dealings, and was invited to join the Board of the company as a Non-Executive Director in the period leading up to its public listing in December 2013.  I have been on the Board since that time, and took on the role as Board Chairman in April 2022. The Board members are appointed by the shareholders of the company and are responsible for overseeing all of the activities of the business and ensuring that appropriate governance and operational  standards are maintained.

You’ve just returned from nine days in the desert – can you tell us about the Youngcare Simpson Desert Challenge and how you became involved?

Youngcare is a not for profit organisation that has no recurring government funding arrangements. It relies on its own fundraising and sponsorship/donations to carry out its activities in supporting young people with high physical support needs. The Simpson Desert Challenge is one of Youngcare’s major fundraising initiatives, and each participant undertakes to raise funds as part of their commitment to the challenge.

I have known a number of people involved with Youngcare for some years and was invited to participate this year, which I was very happy to do as their work is so important in changing the lives of many people in need.

We can only imagine that this challenge was an immense undertaking. How did you prepare yourself?

Having held the Challenge for some years, Youngcare has a cohort of dedicated supporters who have participated previously, a number of whom freely give of their time in developing training programs to ensure that participants are physically and mentally prepared for the desert. Activities over the 6 months leading up to the trek included many hours walking the hills of Mt Coot-tha, targeted gym sessions, an extended session in the sand dunes at Stradbroke Island – not only did this all help with building up our stamina, but it was important in developing the teamwork and camaraderie which was so critical in helping us support one another when the going was tough in the desert.

What was the highlight of the challenge for you? And what were some of the difficulties you faced while traversing the Simpson Desert?

There were many highlights, it is difficult to narrow it down:

  • The teamwork across the group where everyone freely helped one another, and we really developed strong friendships
  • The opportunity to spend time in such an isolated part of our country, while harsh, dry and arid it is also beautiful and peaceful in its own way, and the starlit nights are something to behold
  • While difficult initially without all the 24/7 forms of communication we are used to, it was an opportunity to “switch off” from the rest of the world, and to spend time thinking about what we were doing, why, and how this can help many others in need. It really helps in working through what really are or should be the important priorities in our lives

In terms of difficulties, the terrain was harsh – plenty of deep sand which was difficult to gain traction to walk through, also a lot of rocky areas which went for kms and were very hard to walk on, all the while with millions of flies for company.

If you could give some advice to someone who might be looking to take part in the challenge in future years, what would you say?

My advice would be to take the plunge and just do it. As long as you put time into the training process, the team around you will help everyone to get through, and you will never forget the experience.

You raised an incredible amount of money to support Youngcare – why is this cause and this organisation important to you?

This year’s challenge has raised almost $750,000 to date, which will contribute to a number of important initiatives.

It only takes a visit to a Youngcare home to understand the profoundly important impact that Youngcare is having on young people in facilitating their own home and a sense of independence.

Also, having seen someone close to me live in a nursing home from a relatively young age because there was nowhere else suitable, and for them to pass away prematurely, I know that type of accommodation is not the answer. So, participating and raising money and awareness for Youngcare is a way to contribute to making a better life for others.

And finally, Youngcare is one of our four NS Cares national partners. In your opinion, how valuable is the NS Cares community support initiative to National Storage as a whole?

National Storage has a significant footprint across Australia and New Zealand and our centres interact with many communities, from which our business benefits. In all of these communities there will be people who are less fortunate than us, often through no fault of their own, and it is right and proper that we should contribute to helping to support others in our communities who need it. The NS Cares community support initiative is a tangible way of providing such support and assistance.

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