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How Terry O’Connor, group CEO of Courts Asia, turned tragedy into a chance for charity

For the group CEO of Courts Asia, charity begins at home.

In 2001, Terry O’Connor and his wife, Janice, were gearing up to throw their annual Christmas party when he received news that their good friend – a Singaporean the couple met in the United Kingdom – had died from breast cancer. “Our first instinct was to cancel the party. But we decided to turn it into a fund-raiser for the Breast Cancer Foundation instead,” says the 49-year old group CEO of Courts Asia.


“Most of the charities we’ve worked with have become good friends and even help us to organise fund-raisers for other beneficiaries.”

– Terry O’Connor


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Instead of the usual gift exchange, guests were asked to donate a sum of money at the door. “It was pretty informal. I asked the entertainer from the British Club to sing while some of the ladies put some items up for auction,” he says. That evening, $22,000 was raised.

Thus marked the beginning of a 16-year tradition to date, which saw the annual garden party cum fund-raiser expanding to the point where it finally outgrew the couple’s home. In 2010, the yearly event moved into larger venues such as golf and country clubs. To date, the O’Connors together with Courts Asia have raised $4.5 million for 24 local charities, including the Down Syndrome Association, Children’s Cancer Foundation, and The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund. “Most of the charities we’ve worked with have become good friends and even help us to organise fund-raisers for other beneficiaries,” says O’Connor.

PHOTOGRAPHY ZAPHS ZHANG ART DIRECTION FAZLIE HASHIM