CEO with a big heart for the needy
When it comes to fund-raising, group CEO of Courts Asia Terry O'Connor and his wife Janice sure know how to throw a party
Charity has been a huge part of his life since he was 13 and group chief executive officer of Courts Asia Terry O'Connor, 48, credits his uncle for that.
"The first time I met him was when I visited my grandmother at the hospital. He asked if I was interested in camping and if I wanted to help out at his summer camp for underprivileged children," he tells The New Paper on Sunday.
His uncle was running a charity called the Northwest Handicapped Children's Society in the UK and that may have been his way of steering the young Terry from bad influences.
Every year after that, Mr O'Connor worked at the summer camp and even became a committee member until he left Britain for Singapore with his family in 1993.
Mr O'Connor brought this passion and vigour with him to his business and his personal life here.
In 2001, Mr O'Connor wanted to throw a Christmas party at their home in Bukit Timah.
He and his wife, Mrs Janice O'Connor, 61, throw parties at the end of every year.
Mrs O'Connor says: "But it was shortly after one of my good friends died from breast cancer and I was still grieving.
"I gave in on the condition that it was turned into a charity party to raise money for the Breast Cancer Foundation in her memory."
Instead of the usual gift exchange, the O'Connors told their guests to leave $45 at the door.
"There was also stuff put up for auction," says Mrs O'Connor.
"We had intended to raise $5,000 but at the end of the night, we made $22,000."
Mr O'Connor says: "Dr Seet Ai Mee, the chairman of Courts, thought it was an excellent idea as it was a house party and there were no costs involved.
"Nothing went to the cost of throwing the party. All the monies went straight to charity.
"We even had to fork out money at our own house party," Mrs O'Connor says with a laugh.
The next year, their Christmas party raised $56,000 for the Dover Park Hospice, of which Dr Seet is the founding chairman.
GIVING: Mrs Janice O'Connor and her husband, group CEO of Courts Asia Terry O'Connor. TNP PHOTO: MOHD ISHAK
Since the first party, the number of guests has grown from 40 to about 500. And it has expanded beyond friends.
When the O'Connors moved into their current apartment in Farrer Road in 2008, the venue of their parties changed to Raffles Town Club.
As the number of guests and funds raised have grown, Mr O'Connor asked friends and co-opted staff and colleagues from Courts as volunteers.
"They bring in the best mix of skills - from marketing, administration, entertainment and logistics," Mr O'Connor says.
The volunteers form the planning committee to assess the charities, keep track of contributions, sponsorships and donations, and ensure the funds raised are channelled directly to the beneficiaries.
They include Make-A-Wish Foundation Singapore, Down Syndrome Association, The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, to Children's Cancer Foundation and Autism Association of Singapore.
"Courts does not receive a single cent," Mr O'Connor assures.
Apart from raising funds, Mr O'Connor also made it a point to hire or rehire people who lost their jobs after they suffered from stroke.
He says: "It is a way to help people to feel that they are still useful to society, to give them their dignity back.
"It is also about setting an example and to instil great value and raise the awareness level among the staff at Courts."
Terry O’Connor’s moments of madness
Since 2001, the O'Connors have been raising funds for charities - from breast cancer awareness to helping children in poverty.
"It started as a house party and I was raising funds for the Breast Cancer Foundation in memory of a good friend who died from the disease," Mrs Janice O'Connor, 61, says.
And every year since, her husband, Courts Asia group CEO Terry O'Connor would, as part of the charity party, include what he calls his "moment of madness" as a fund-raising component.
The guests are encouraged to pledge monetary contributions - all of which go to the beneficiaries - to support his performances.
He danced hip-hop style at the Retrolicious Charity Party in 2011 and played the kettle drums in 2014 at the Rio Carnival Charity Party.
In 2005, his Bollywood-themed party raised $88,000 for The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.
Last year at the Cool Britannia- themed party, he outdid himself by turning up as Ginger Spice and performed a Spice Girls number with his "mates".
It was held at the Raffles Town Club and the event raised $300,000 for the Children's Wishing Well, a student advisory centre, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation Singapore.
This year, Mr O'Connor says he will be doing the flamenco.
"I think I'm in trouble because I have only recently started picking up and practising the dance," he says, laughing.