Dry July – clear your head and make a difference

| July 10, 2013

The Dry July initiative raises funds for adults living with cancer and their families. Brett Macdonald, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Dry July, explains how an idea on the back of a coaster became a national charity.

Dry July started as a challenge between mates back in June 2007. We all enjoyed a few beers, and so the challenge was set as to who could last the longest without drinking, starting July 1st. Our competitive nature and pure bewilderment from friends made us take the idea of abstaining one step further.

At the time there never seemed to be a reason not to drink. People seemed to think it was an absurd idea and there must be something wrong with us both mentally and physically. At the same time in July 2007 my Aunty was diagnosed with cancer and sadly passed away only a few weeks later. On the one hand I was seeing the near impossible nature a month off the booze was proving to be and on the other I witnessed (for the second time) how devastating cancer can be.

Could giving up booze for a cause be what would silence our annoying mates from pressuring us to drink and in turn make them hand over a few dollars for a good cause? We had to give it a go!

With a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude we created the website. A collaboration of our (the founders) skill sets being graphic design, web design, web development and PR, it was a case of working after hours and weekends to make it all happen. This was fuelled by a passion for the cause and the difference we were striving to achieve.

It was really a combination of bad/unfortunate events that gave us the motivation to establish Dry July. I lost my dad to cancer at a young age and more recently my aunt. Seeing the effects of cancer makes you want to do something about it. Phil Grove, co-founder of Dry July, was diagnosed with a tumour towards the end of 2007 and was treated at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney. Thankfully it was benign and he has fully recovered. It was then that we approached the hospital where he was treated with the fundraising idea of ‘Dry July’, hoping we’d be able to donate $3,000 to them in August by getting 10 of our mates to join us in DJ08.

To our surprise we didn’t get laughed out of the doors, and with a green light to fundraise we had some work to do…. The first campaign in 2008 was under the authority of the Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation in Randwick. The amount we raised ($257k) caught everybody by surprise, and having the support of Adam Spencer and ABC Local Radio we knew we had to turn Dry July into an officially registered national fundraising organisation.

This was no mean-feat, and it meant both Phil and I had to leave full-time employment to dedicate the time required transforming Dry July from an idea on the back of a coaster into a successful national charity.

Dry July’s mission is to make real tangible change to the lives of adults living with cancer. This being our 6th campaign we now support 34 different cancer services across Australia and New Zealand. To date we have raised over $11 million by encouraging over 43,000 people to go dry. The funds raised are directed to improve environments where cancer patients are treated to ensure their journey is that little bit more comfortable. We fund items that government budgets simply do not stretch to. These include art therapy, music therapy, new chemotherapy treatment chairs, patient and family accommodation, new flat screen tvs, WiFi, iPads, exercise equipment and upgraded waiting areas to name but a few. Each cancer centre has their own specific requirements and we enjoy working them all over the course of the year to fulfil their wish lists.

Thank you for supporting Dry July and hope to see you on board with us!