Dry July

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Dry July


Over the phone, Dry July co-founder Brett MacDonald is as excited and nervous as ever as the year’s third ‘J’ month approaches. This will be MacDonald’s fifth consecutive July going without alcohol, and though he admits it hasn’t gotten easier, his commitment to enact positive change in the community still drives him to the challenge.

“The whole passion behind Dry July and the reason for us wanting to turn it into a fundraiser was because we had such a close relation to cancer,” explains MacDonald. “One of the co-founders had a close call himself which lead us to Prince of Wales Hospital in the first year, and it was just kind of having that momentum, and just being in the hospital and seeing the changes that need to be made, you know? Even a notice board with leaflets with information about cancer services and support networks and groups – there’s just such a vast number of changes that can be made.”

Going without alcohol for as long as they could that first Dry July back in 2007, MacDonald and company joined forces and decided to challenge themselves for a number of reasons – if not only the mental exercise – and see how the group would fair on top of raising a little money for their cause. “The whole thing kicked off amongst friends,” MacDonald explains. “We all knew we could drink quite a bit, but the challenge was to see who could go the longest without drinking alcohol, and the month just so happened to be July. At the time, there were never any excuses not to drink, and everybody’s kind of putting peer-pressure on you and it’s already an eye-opening experience when you’re going out and socialising – but being the one to sit there with a water at the bar, you know, people we’re questioning that and saying, ‘Come on, what’s your reasoning behind this?’ and it was like, ‘Well, I just sort of need time off for health reasons.’ And so, not being able to have a solid excuse or an acceptable excuse started us thinking.”

The group put their graphic and web design skill sets together and created dryjuly.com – the website behind and responsible for the charities ever increasing success. “So basically, heading over to the website, it’s free to sign up. Once you’ve signed up, you’ve actually created your own unique profile page. And from there you can actually direct friends, family and work colleagues to your profile page and they can make a donation and leave you a message of support.”

The site’s use of social media has helped to spread the message and continue the steady increase of participants – or DJs, as they’re called – over the years. “We had only done fundraising in New South Wales at first, but it was getting pick-up across Australia, and we thought, well, it’s working – so if we have one hospital, what if we branched out and sent the concept across Australia to 6 other hospitals in each state, never knowing how successful or not these things can be. Much to our amazement, for the second year, it received four-thousand people signing up and raised 1.3 million.”

The prospect of going without alcohol may seem like a scary scenario for me, err, many of us – but Dry July gives the perfect excuse to wake up five weekend mornings out of the month (yes, I’ve counted) clear headed but intoxicated by feelings of goodwill. And before you know it, it’ll be August and we’ll all be cheap dates.

“It humbles us every year, the enthusiasm. That so many people are willing to give up alcohol, we never thought it would actually get out the pub door, but it did, and people are just so keen to get involved. They realise it’s a great thing for themselves, and a great thing for their community and their local hospital. You know, the drinking age here is 18, and cancer doesn’t discrimination, so it’s a broad market we have out there.”

For more information or to sign up head to dryjuly.com