Doc Hendley Profile

Doc Hendley is a CNN Hero and President and founder of the organization Wine to Water. He brings his knowledge of civil and human rights, global affairs and empowerment to his inspirational presentations.

The original concept of Wine to Water came from Hendley’s experiences tending bar and playing music in nightclubs in Raleigh, North Carolina. Wanting to raise money to fight water related death and disease in a new way, he started to hold fundraisers that gave his patrons the chance to have a good time for a good cause.

Soon after coming up with the concept, Hendley was living in Darfur, Sudan, installing water systems for refugees from the government-supported genocide. Putting himself in grave danger (two of his team were killed during his year there), Hendley returned home more determined than ever to ensure clean water is available wherever it is needed around the world.

After much hard work and self-sacrifice, Hendley finally achieved his dream and Wine to Water is now an official charity running projects in nine different countries worldwide. Thousands of lives are now being saved every year by the provision of clean drinking water, the most basic human need and right.

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    Doc Hendley is a 2009 CNN Hero. He is President/Founder of the organization Wine To Water and is also a professional public speaker.

    “When the idea came to me to start Wine to Water the only real job experience I had was tending bar,” said Hendley, “I dreamed of building an organization that fought water related death and disease using different methods than anyone else. So, I started raising money to fight this water epidemic that best way I knew how, by pouring wine and playing music.

    In 2003, he dreamed up the concept of his organization while bartending and playing music in nightclubs around Raleigh, NC. In February 2004, the first fundraiser was held for what would one day be Wine To Water and by August of that same year Hendley was living in Darfur, Sudan installing water systems for victims of the government supported genocide. Putting his life in peril, along with those on his team who were committed to providing clean water for the world, two of which were killed during this period, Hendley returned home with an even stronger sense of the need of clean water around the globe.

    When Doc returned home in August 2005, after spending a year in Darfur, the haunting memories of what he had seen in Darfur drove him to continue building the organization he started two years prior. In 2007, after working two jobs and volunteering his time for three years, Wine To Water became an official 501 (c) (3) and Doc’s dream finally became a reality. He now has projects in 9 different countries around the world and has saved thousands of lives by providing humanity’s most basic need and right, clean drinking water.

    Doc lives in Boone, NC with his wife, Amber, and two sons, Justice and Beattie. Balancing family life and the demands of building Wine to Water, Doc Hendley continues to travel to underdeveloped, war-ridden nations, working in the field to bring clean water to those in need.

Doc Hendley Speaking Videos

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Doc Hendley's Speech Descriptions

Motivated by his quest to bring clean water to those who need it, Doc Hendley inspires others with his story of not only founding a charity but working at the sharp end of it in Darfur, the world’s most dangerous region. He explains how relationships have the power to transcend perceived barriers, taking things that once seemed impossible and making them inevitable. He also explains his philosophy of maximizing whatever is available to make the very most of every opportunity.

Digging for Hope: Turning Wine to Water & Other Modern Day Miracles

  • How to do what we can with what we have
  • Illustrates the immense power of relationships to transcend perceived barriers
  • Proves the power of one to transform the impossible into the inevitable
  • In his talks to audiences, he explains the dire need for clean water—a basic right—around the world:

  • Unclean water is the number one killer of children in the world.
  • Every 15 seconds a child dies from unclean water.
  • Waterborne illnesses kill far more children than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.
  • Nearly two-thirds of Asians don’t have access to clean water.
  • In the sub-Saharan Africa, more than 40% of the population does not have the ability to sanitize their water.

    He also shares his story about founding Wine To Water—the challenges and the victories. He talks about the successes the organization continues to have and what kept him going when he felt like giving up or had no idea what his next steps would be. When he speaks, Hendley’s passion challenges his audience to improve each and every day, and to help those who can’t necessarily help themselves. As he brings his story to life, he also brings to light the immediate need for each person to change the world in a meaningful way.

  • Doc Hendley on Speaking

    Everyday people have the ability to have an extraordinary impact on the world around them.

    SPEAKING.COM: What do you want people to learn / take away from your presentations?

    HENDLEY: There are a number of different messages that I try and convey depending on who the audience is. However, there are always a few themes I focus on, regardless of the group:

    1. Everyday people have the ability to have an extraordinary impact on the world around them.

    2. At the end of the day it’s not only our investment in the bottom line that makes or breaks our organizations and us. Our investment in relationships is equally as important.

    3. It’s not “when” or “if” we fail that defines us or our ability to succeed; rather we are defined by “How” we deal with failures and hardships once they arise.

    SPEAKING.COM: What kind of special prep work do you do prior to an event? How to you prepare for your speaking engagements?


    The pre-speech conference calls are extremely helpful for me to prepare for each event. I like to know exactly who the audience is that I am speaking to and why they are at that specific conference or event in order to prepare for my speech. Also, I really enjoy playing off of each event’s or conference’s specific theme if they have one (i.e. leadership, relationships, social responsibility, etc.).

    SPEAKING.COM: Have you had any particularly memorable speaking engagements / unusual situations arise while on the road?


    I’ve had quite a few memorable events, each special in their own way. The ones I think of the most are events where I had a really special connection not just with the audience but also the client themselves. I can usually tell right there on the first conference call with the client if the event is going to be one of the more “memorable” ones. In my opinion that connection with the client or event host is every bit as important as the overall impact that I am able to make on the audience.

    I’ve learned that the special groups of people who plan these events have a TON on their plates and their jobs are super stressful. So, I make it my personal goal to not only be one less thing that they have to stress about, but to take it a step further and actually have fun working together to help make sure that my speech has the specific impact they want it to have.

    SPEAKING.COM: Who are some of your favorite audiences?

    HENDLEY: I am very comfortable in university settings as well as with the health care industry. However, the last few years I’ve had a lot of opportunities speaking to audiences from the financial industry, (i.e. banks, investment groups, insurance companies, etc.). I’ve really enjoyed those groups because they challenge me and help me to think outside the box when it comes to my speech and what message I hope to convey. I love challenges and I was born to think outside of the box, so I reckon I have really started to look forward to those types of events as well.

    My goal is to relate to the audience where they are right now and help encourage them right where they are.

    SPEAKING.COM: What types of audiences would most benefit from your message?

    HENDLEY: Any audience that wants to hear a message that is real and relatable to everyday people. I don’t have 10 steps to success. I don’t begin to think I know it all. And I sure as hell don’t think I have “arrived.” I am on this journey just like everyone else, and each one of our stories is unique in it’s own way.

    My goal is to relate to the audience where they are right now and help encourage them right where they are. I never want to be the type that preaches about what things people should be doing and convey the message that only when they follow these steps or rules will they be able to relate to me as a speaker who has “arrived” at some unattainable transcendent level of understanding.

    SPEAKING.COM: What inspired you to start doing speaking engagements? What got you started?

    HENDLEY: My speaking engagements started almost 10 years ago with audiences of half drunk people in bars or after school programs of mostly runny nosed kindergartners; quite the contrast, yet equally entertaining in their own ways. I spoke out of a desire, or even a necessity, to tell whoever would listen about the need for clean water in this world.

    Now my audience is different – just a bit! – and my message has changed or rather grown. Yes, I still speak about the great work that we are doing at Wine To Water, but my goal is to encourage people to use the gifts they’ve been given, or the jobs they have, to benefit the world or community around them in a unique and fun way.

    SPEAKING.COM: Which of your keynote topics are the most popular? How are your keynote presentations unique? Which of your keynote speeches do you enjoy the most and why? What are some of the successes you’ve helped clients make?

    HENDLEY: Many clients have followed up and shared stories of how they as corporations, or individuals within those corporations, have began giving back. It’s amazing the responses I’ve heard over the years. There are groups who have set up their own foundations to support their local communities, individuals who started putting together office service trips both home and abroad, as well as numerous groups that get directly involved with us at Wine To Water.

    SPEAKING.COM: How much do personal stories and or humor factor into your keynote speech content?

    HENDLEY: Story telling is a very important factor in my speech, and humor is not just important it is vital. I actually have to try and include laughs throughout my speech because some of the stuff I talk about is actually really difficult for me to get through. If I can make the audience, and myself, laugh at the right time it keeps me from dwelling too much on the hard stuff and helps everybody have more fun at the end of the day. Exclusive Interview with Doc Hendley
    Inspiring Global Human Rights with Doc Hendley
    Read Doc's inspiring interview, where he discusses:
  • Why he started the global charity, Wine to Water.
  • Current challenges for improving human rights.
  • Inspiring others to do good in the world. Read the Full Interview
  • "You can be a stay at home mom, a flight attendant, an event planner, or a bartender and you have just as much ability to change the world around you as Angelina Jolie or that guy from U2, maybe even greater ability."
    - Doc Hendley

    What People are Saying about Seeing Doc Speak

    Rating Entries

    “Doc was not only charming and modest, he is one of the most inspiring speakers I have ever heard. He takes you on an emotional journey to communities whose living conditions are unimaginable to most of us, and his ability share his vision, his passion, his commitment and his excitement for his global mission has ignited a flame of passion in our membership as well. We have had the pleasure of Doc’s company at all of our events since that one last winter, and we have united behind him and his efforts to make a difference in the world. We are better people as the result of knowing Doc… We think Doc is indeed a ‘HERO!'”
        Carol Owen, VP, Site Southeast

    “Doc is a fantastic person in every way. His humility and dedication to making the world a better place is contagious for children and adults. His colorful and human stories of Africa and his work kept these youngsters captivated. I enthusiastically recommend him.”
        Scott Brogan, Founding Director, Brilliant Lecture Series—Conversations with Brilliance

    “Doc Hendley is the epitome of the individual who has made a difference. He never planned to do this but when he saw a need, he saw that he had a talent to actually direct efforts at improving that need. As a result literally tens of thousands of people around the world now have clean drinking water they did not have before Doc Hendley came along. I am honored quite frankly to have Doc Hendley graduate as a graduate of NC State.”
    Dr. Jim Woodward, Chancellor, NC State University

    “Doc Hendley is setting a compelling example of the value of hard work and a vision to help others. He has taken a common place object and used it to mobilize communities in America to help suffering communities around the world. He is truly an exceptional North Carolinian and I want to praise him for his dedication to serving needy and suffering people. He has taken personal risks to do the hard work of providing water and clean water education in far flung locations around the globe.”
        Rep. Virginia Fox, North Carolina, 5th District, Winston-Salem

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    Books by Doc Hendley:

    Wine to Water: A Bartender’s Quest to Bring Clean Water to the World
    The captivating story of an ordinary bartender who’s changing the world through clean water.

    Doc Hendley never set out to be a hero. In 2004, Hendley—a small-town bartender—launched a series of wine-tasting events to raise funds for clean-water projects and to bring awareness to the world’s freshwater crisis. He planned to donate the proceeds through traditional channels, but instead found himself traveling to one of the world’s most dangerous hot spots: Darfur, Sudan.

    There, Doc witnessed a government-sponsored genocide where the number—one weapon wasn’t bullets—it was water. The Janjaweed terrorists had figured out that shooting up a bladder containing 10,000 liters of water, or dumping rotting corpses into a primary water source is remarkably efficient for the purposes of mass extermination. With limited funds, Doc realized that he couldn’t build new wells costing $10,000 a pop, but he could hire local workers to restore a damaged well for a mere $50 each. He’d found his mission. Today, Doc and Wine to Water continue to help stricken peoples repair and maintain water-containment systems in places like Darfur, Cambodia, Uganda, and Haiti.

    Doc is a regular, rough-and-tumble guy who loves booze, music, and his Harley—but he also wanted to help. Wine to Water is a gripping story about braving tribal warfare and natural disasters and encountering fascinating characters in far-flung regions of the world. It is also an authoritative account of a global crisis and an inspirational tale that proves how ordinary people can improve the world.

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