Solana Beach fundraiser to benefit ‘Wine To Water’ organization


By Diane Y. Welch


Water is a basic necessity in life, yet, according to the Wine To Water organization, nearly one billion people in the world today lack access to adequate water, 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation, and waterborne illnesses kill more people than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. This stunning fact motivated Doc Hendley — a “Top Ten CNN Hero” in 2009 and founder and president of the organization — into action.

“We are devoted to fighting this epidemic,” he affirmed.

On Saturday, Oct. 15, BRAVA Creative will host a free wine-tasting and catered fundraiser at Coast Photography on South Cedros Ave. in Solana Beach to benefit Wine To Water, a non-profit aid organization that provides sustainable water systems to needy people around the world.

Hendley will be at the event to tell his story and explain to those present how charitable donations fund water treatment projects in developing countries like Sudan, India, Cambodia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Haiti and elsewhere.

Making guest appearances are Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman (Ret. U.S. Marine Corps), author of “From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava”and a former NBC military analyst; Chef Jeff, caterer and personal chef and founder at Taste Culinary; and Downtown Rob, ambassador of Downtown San Diego, who will serve as guest bartender for the evening.

A former bartender in Raleigh, NC, Hendley recalled how the name of the organization and the concept came to him before he even knew about clean water issues. In December 2003, while he visited his parents in their North Carolina mountain retreat, a persistent phrase, “wine to water,” kept going over and over in his mind. And as the phrase was backward from the title of the familiar Biblical story where water was turned into wine, it caught his imagination.

While thinking more in-depth about that phrase, Hendley considered if there were any issues with water and researched it online. “I was completely shocked to find out that more children die from unclean water than anything else in the world. I was more shocked that I had never heard about it and neither had any of my friends.” The movement was thus born.

In 2008, the economic downturn coincided with Hendley’s 1-year-old child suffering serious health issues. The organization struggled to survive. Then in February 2009, Hendley was surprised to get a call from CNN when he found out that he had been nominated for recognition as a CNN hero, one of over 9,000 nominees from 120 countries.

A bartending colleague had put forward the nomination when she witnessed Hendley leave everything behind in the USA and move to Darfur, putting himself in harm’s way to start the organization in early 2004. A celebrity panel of judges chose Hendley as one of the Top Ten CNN Heroes from a short list of 30 finalists.

“It was such a relief and brought the organization to another level,” said Hendley. “From there a storm of good things happened,” he added. When he secured a book deal to write his story, which will be released by Penguin Books on Jan. 5, 2012, the advance helped Hendley pay off some of the debt incurred through his child’s illness. And the award gave greater visibility to his organization.

The free Wine To Water event will include opportunity drawings with items donated from Microsoft Corp, a portrait session and fine art print from award-winning photographer Kevin M. Connors, plus the chance to spend a day with a Navy SEAL, and more.

It is anticipated that around 200 people will attend the wine-tasting event. It is hoped that $10,000 will be raised through individual donations and purchase of raffle tickets which cost $10 each or $40 for five for prize drawings. “Wine symbolizes fortune in our society,” said Hendley. “Our goal is to give the fortunate population an opportunity to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.”

The event is on Saturday, Oct. 15, from 6 p.m.-10 p.m., and will take place at Coast Highway Photography, 415 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach. This is a free event but tax deductible donations are welcome. Visit https://

/ to RSVP, for more information, and to purchase raffle tickets. Log onto to find out more about the organization.