On 18 July, an impressive contingent of industry leaders gathered at The Venue in Melrose Arch to participate in the second SOS Dinner, a fundraising event hosted by DWR Distribution to assist people and families in the theatre and live events industries during times of need.

In its second iteration, the SOS Fundraising Dinner is an biennial event that aims to raise funds for the SOS Charity Fund – a philanthropic project launched by DWR Distribution in 2016 to assist professionals working in the live events and theatre industries during times of personal crisis.

“When visiting South Africa back in 2016, Ian Staddon of DiGiCo made our team aware of a charity that operates in England, which was established to assist individuals working in the entertainment industry during difficult times,” explains Duncan Riley, managing director of DWR Distribution. “According to Ian, the UK-based charity was not designed to pay out massive amounts or play the role of insurer, but rather to enable humble gestures that provide immediate relief for industry people in their hour of need,” Riley goes on to explain. It immediately became clear to Riley and his team that an organisation of this nature was desperately needed in South Africa, and the SOS Charity was born.

Since its launch in December  2016, the SOS has supported several individuals and families during times of crisis. One such beneficiary is Kendall Dixon, a father of five who was diagnosed with cancer while working abroad in 2018. Kendall has been fighting for his life for the past two years, and personally thanked the SOS Charity for its generous donation towards his treatment. “You never expect something like this to happen to you – and you can never really be prepared if it does. Thanks to the generosity of people like you, I am still fighting, despite being given only weeks to live back in 2018,” Kendall told attendees at the SOS Dinner.

 The SOS has been able to make similar contributions to help support Landy Yeatman, who is also bravely fighting cancer. The organisation was also able to, literally, lend a hand when rental company owner and technician Vincent Joubert discovered that he had developed septic arthritis. The SOS was able to assist in paying for specialised medical treatment that prevented doctors from amputating his finger, which would have permanently impeded his ability to work.

While the SOS has tried to answer the call for help when people are facing illness and grief, they have also played an instrumental role in lighting the flame of hope when opportunity knocks and financial barriers threaten to keep the door latched. Daniel Meledimo, a student from TUT, showed all the right stuff when he approached Joshua Cutts as a volunteer on the set of Idols South Africa in 2017. “It was evident that [Daniel] was an extremely hardworking and dedicated student, with the right temperate and someone who would do well in the industry. After chatting to him, I realised that he might have to drop out university, as he could not afford to pay his outstanding account,” explains Cutts. He approached the SOS, and together, they raised the funds needed to allow Daniel to graduate and pursue his dream of working in the industry.

None of these works of kindness, which are simply too many to mention individually, would have been possible without the support that the charity has received from the industry over the past three years. “The SOS Charity Dinner provides a platform for people to give back to the industry that we all are so passionate about. Many of the attendees at this years’ SOS Dinner are tough competitors in the market. However, the rivalry between rental companies, manufacturers and suppliers is put aside for a night as we all get together to share a meal, laugh, banter and support a good cause,” says Riley.

In closing, Duncan and Sherryn Riley extend their heartfelt gratitude to all who contributed to the SOS Dinner, which has helped to raise much-needed funds to ensure that the SOS can continue the great work it has achieved thus far.

“We would like to thank Tony Raciti and the team at The Venue in Melrose Arch for hosting us. Also a huge thanks to the Gearhouse Group of companies for sponsoring the registration stand.  We really appreciate the talent who offered their time at no cost to entertain us during the event, including our MC for the night, Lucky Du Plessis, and Jeremy Loops and Sutherland for their fantastic performances. Finally, a huge thank you to all of the people who donated items for auction and to those who bid so enthusiastically during the event. We are incredibly grateful for your generosity.”

Should you wish to get involved in assisting the SOS Charity in future initiatives, kindly contact Duncan Riley at duncan@dwrdistribution.co.za.