A Good Night’s Sleep

Sleeping Children Around the World

Dana Lacey, Financial Post, November 14, 2009

Nearly 40 years ago, Murray Dryden stumbled over a child sleeping in the street in Pune, India. Soon after he and his wife, Margaret, founded Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW), with a mission to provide a peaceful night’s sleep for children living in developing countries.

On their first donation trip they delivered kits consisting of a mattress, mosquito net, school supplies and a set of clothes to 50 children that didn’t have beds. This summer, SCAW delivered its millionth bed kit.

Dave Dryden, the former NHL goalie, is Murray’s son and chairman of the organization. He credits SCAW’s success to the business model his father created: Every cent donated to the charity has gone directly toward the purchase of bedkits.

“It’s important for people to know exactly where their money is going,” Mr. Dryden says. “There’s a skepticism out there about donating to charity.”

The 100% promise is achieved in several ways. Before he passed in 2003, Murray Dryden built a sizeable nest egg — called the Legacy Fund — from which all operating expenses are drawn. The charity is run from the Dryden family home in Toronto. SCAW does not advertise; for 39 years the company has grown solely through word of mouth.

There is only one paid employee — the rest are volunteers. The charity performs a dozen donation trips a year to more than 30 developing countries, where it partners with local service clubs, such as Kiwanis, Rotary and Lion’s clubs. These clubs in turn connect them with needy children. The money is given to the clubs, who donate their time to buy the materials locally for the kits. This provides a boost to the local economy.

Canadian SCAW volunteers pay their own expenses to travel to the various countries and distribute the kits. It’s the kind of trip that attracts retired couples and older adults looking for unique experiences and a chance to give something back. Each kid is photographed with their new bed, so the donor gets a smiling souvenir or gift.

SCAW’s mission and business model has caught the attention of Consonant Body, an organic soap company. They created SCAWbranded “Help Somebody” soaps, sold at The Bay, Sears and specialty stores, and donate 100% of the profit to the charity.

Because the Legacy Fund has begun to dwindle, SCAW has taken its first big step into the corporate world. “We were mainly funded by individual donors, churches, schools and service clubs,” Mr. Dryden says. Last spring, it hosted its first annual Pinehurst Club breakfast meeting and invited the business community. TD Canada Trust was the main sponsor and donated the meeting space. Toronto Argonauts vice chairman Pinball Clemons was guest speaker.

“Businesses were thrilled about keeping the organization running as it does,” Mr. Dryden says. The event raised $92,000 for the operating fund, and another $15,000 for the kits. Which, at $35 a kit, means more than 400 kids will get a new bed.

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