Unveiled DWS’ not so secret, Secret Millionaire – Danny Wallis talks to me

Last night on Australia’s Channel 9’s Secret Millionaire, my boss Danny Wallis took centre stage as the undercover multi Millionaire do-gooder. Watching this increased my pride in what we are about as a company, as we are most definitely led by the top. Danny does keep a lot of his charitable work hidden from view, under the cover of his hard lined business exterior. But for those who have known him for a while you’ll know his other side. We had an event a few years ago we called “DWS donate a day” whereby every dollar we earned as a company for that day we donated to one of 3 different charities. Note, this was a number of years ago, but we were able to donate $150,000 for that single days work! Let me say it again as I find it pretty impressive $150,000.

For Danny to put himself in the public eye like this is a bit out of character, but I am glad he did. At his return from 10 days without contact with the office, his laptop or mobile phone (Which I think almost killed him) I caught up with him and he allowed me to write down his thoughts. Please read below.

“After spending 10 days in Wollongong, NSW as part of Channel 9’s new reality series The Secret Millionaire, it’s fair to say, it has had a huge impact on me.
I had never previously been to Wollongong and to be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect as what I had heard about it wasn’t really all that complimentary. What I found though was a community full of life and spirit and people doing some amazing work.

As a “volunteer” I spent 10 days dealing with those less fortunate and those very much in need. After spending time with them you realise they aren’t freaks, they’re real people with real emotions who’ve found themselves in a position they can’t control. The scary thing is it could happen to anyone. Luckily though, there are some incredible people out there who do their very best to help and support others within their community.

I spent quite a deal of time at “Darcy House”, a drop in centre for the most disadvantaged and isolated people of the Illawarra. The work they do there is simply inspiring. They provide food, shelter, advocacy, advice and social support and in many cases Darcy House is the final option for many of these people. Each person had their own unique story to tell and they were all unanimous in agreeing that without Darcy House their circumstances would be much, much worse. Darcy House operates on a very modest budget and I knew they would benefit in some way from the donations I was going to make.

I also spent a lot of time with Jim Clabour at the Wollongong Police Citizens Boys Club and the Illawarra amputee association. Jim is a giant of a man with a heart of gold. He lost his leg, from the knee down, in an industrial accident over 20 years ago and since then has devoted his life to helping others. He spends the majority of his time teaching local youth how to box and the importance of discipline. Imagine that, a one legged boxing trainer. The gym was very old and run down but Jim never once complained. He simply made do with what he had and ensured the kids were always made as welcome and as comfortable as possible. Believe it or not, Jim drives a bus part time to help make ends meet. Never been on a bus trip with a one legged driver before so that was definitely a first for me. As a bus driver, Jim makes a great boxing coach. All jokes aside, Jim’s positive attitude and commitment to the youth of region made me pretty certain he too would feature in some way in my final decision of who would benefit from my donations.

Without a doubt the most touching and emotional part of my Secret Millionaire journey was my meetings with the O’Brien family. David and Rebecca O’Brien’s children, Jayden 5 and Billy 3 suffer from the rare skin condition epidermolysis bullosa. The condition causes the skin to blister at the slightest irritation has been a huge emotional and financial drain on the O’Brien’s. The boys will never be able to do what most kids take for granted and watching them struggle through their pain broke my heart. They have blisters all over their bodies and the slightest touch or bump breaks the skin. Regular hospital trips are a part of their lives and Jayden suffers from the condition internally too which means he has to be fed through a tube. Both Jayden and Billy never once complained about anything. They realised they were different to other kids and that’s just how it was. The resilience of children is incredible. There was no doubt I was going to help the O’Briens.

When it came to making my final decision about who would benefit from my donations and by how much there were a lot of things running through my mind.
At the end of my journey on Secret Millionaire, I donated $100,000.
$50,000 went the O’Briens. $30,000 to Jim Clabour and $20,000 to Darcy House.
A lot of the time, many of us just don’t realise how truly lucky and blessed we are. We take so many things for granted and don’t realise there are so many people throughout Australia who are really struggling and doing it tough. This is a great country, however we can make it greater still by taking a leaf out of the book of the people I met and giving back to our communities and helping out those less fortunate. You don’t have to donate thousands and thousands of dollars to make a difference. You can make a difference by simply helping out in any capacity you can.

There are some great, committed people and organisations out there and it was my privilege and pleasure to be able to assist, in my own small way, the fantastic work these incredible people do. The circumstances I experienced in Wollongong will stay with me forever and I’m just so glad I was able to help. We all can help. We all should help”

After watching the episode last night, after some nerves (I’m not sure what Danny must have been feeling) when sitting down to watch it, I have to say I am really impressed. And I’m not just saying that because he signs my pay cheques. I really enjoy this show, it highlights some things we just take for granted, and I think it also shows that there are some really caring people out there. Thanks to Channel 9 for putting this show on and thanks to Danny and all the other secret millionaires who agreed to be part of it, giving up their own time and money to help those in the community who need it. Whilst I won’t admit to tears when watching these shows, for some reason there is always some moisture in the eye cavity.

Posted on November 5, 2009, in charity, DWS, leadership, secret millionaire. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. this is a really nice one. I saw that episode last night and thought of you dan 🙂

  2. I will admit to tears, Dan 🙂 But I was amazed and touched at how little it takes to change someone's life and how much the world can be changed by people that care, like Danny. He came across as a very intelligent and caring person – I've been honestly proud to tell people of my association with him!

  3. Some 5 years later January 2014 in the UK, I happen to catch the show and eagerly followed Danny Willis’ journey. What I saw was amazing! So please pass this onto your boss (if he is still your boss).

    Danny Willis your journey was amazing to watch, in your life you have everything and you made a HUGE difference in a savage world to many lives in a community. Your kindness and generosity for those you helped financially will pay forward and everyone will benefit somehow. I watched an amazing personal journey for you that opened your eyes to a different world from yours and opened your heart to fill it with love and compassion for those who need it. As your week progressed you could see your heart fill up with more love. It was brilliant to watch. I’m a firm believer in being the best people we can be and filling the world with love and compassion to make a difference no matter how small. THANK YOU for making a difference in the world, thank you for caring enough to do the programme, THANK YOU for changing lives. If I had what you have I would use it to change lives too. For now I will just be the best person I can be volunteer more, care for everyone as much as I can and keep my heart full of love. If you’re ever in the UK come by for a cup if tea and a piece of cake. many thanks Victoria.

    PS i hope you found your other half to share your life with and make you happy and change your world too :O)

  4. what a champion Secret MillionaireI thought he was just one of us that go there

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