Thursday, July 8, 2010

Taking Care of Business: Dave Dryden - Part 1

Blogged by John Wroblewski on his blog, July 8th, 2010

One of the great things about writing for Global Traveler is that I can do pieces about some of my childhood favorites. I recently had the chance to do just that, by interviewing Dave Dryden, former NHL and WHA goalie and current President of Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW). That piece ran online yesterday on GT's site. I learned so much about Dave and SCAW that I had to share more of the info here.

Dave was an outstanding junior hockey player who hoped to gain a university scholarship to pursue his goal of teaching. In 1962, while attending a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers, Dryden was plucked from the stands when Rangers goalie Gump Worsley was injured. In those days, teams did not carry a backup goalie. Unfortunately for Dryden, he was now considered a pro and his hopes of a scholarship were gone.

He went on to have a fine career with the Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Cougars and Edmonton Oilers.

Dave played in the 1973-74 NHL All-Star game, gave up Wayne Gretzky's first pro goal and was the WHA MVP for the 1978-79 season.

After retiring, he coached for a bit, but eventually his passion led him to SCAW, the organization his father Murray had started in 1970.

Murray Dryden loved the beauty of a sleeping child. He loved photographing them and planned to put together a book of such photos. On one trip to India, he saw a child sleeping in a street and decided he wanted to do something about it.

Thus SCAW was born and fifty bedkits distributed on the first of what would become many such distribution trips. (A bedkit consists of a mattress, a pillow, a blanket and whatever other bedding necessary for any given area.) Murray set a goal of one million bedkits by 2010.

Sadly, Murray passed on in 2004, but Dave oversaw the one millionth bedkit distributed last year.

SCAW has helped make Dave quite a global traveler. According to him, he has logged in over 300,000 air miles on trips to India (5x), Bangladesh (4x), Tanzania (2x), Honduras, Uganda, Kenya and the Philippines.

I asked Dave about problems during the travels.
"During the early days of SCAW, my dad did the distributions by himself and due to his adventurous nature, was in some very dangerous situations. He was often "flying by the seat of his pants". Now that we have more distributions each year and travel in teams of 6, we need to do a great deal of preparatory work before a team leaves. Fortunately, this has minimized the "scary situations". However, virtually on every distribution I have been on, there have been situations where our team is out in a rural area usually using a school playground as our base of operations and having about 600 bedkits sitting out ready to give them to 600 previously selected children. Due to curiosity, thousands of people have gathered to see what is going on. These are all very poor people who would like to get a bedkit. Will they walk in and disregard our process to get a bedkit? There really isn't anything to prevent that. This has never happened. I am amazed at the self-control exhibited by the rural people."
I inquired about travel memories.
"When I think of travel memories, if I am on vacation, what I remember is places and things I saw. When I get back from a SCAW distribution trip, my memories are all of people. I am always amazed at the universality of the children, rich, poor, in India, in Africa, they are all the same. They have bright inquisitive and enthusiastic eyes. They smile, they cry, they need love and they all do need a good night sleep to be healthy. They and their caregivers all value education. The adults are like us. In fact, some of the aspects of life that they value most, I think that we sometimes forget. The importance of "Family" is an example. I remember talking through an interpreter with an impoverished rural farmer in India, who very sincerely said he felt sorry for us. I was quite startled at his statement. He commented on the breakdown of "the family and our seeming need to carry guns". I didn't have a good rebuttal."
Dave had a lot more interesting things to say and I will be sharing those here in the next few days. In the meantime, please check out Sleeping Children Around the World.

Dave Dryden, Laura Harper, Ted Swanston,
Ken Graham and Clarence Deyoung in Toronto, Canada-Late 2000's.