Most of you would recognise him from shows such as The Secret Life of Us and Molly, but Samuel Johnson is known for much more than his acting ability.
In 2012, Johnson founded the Love Your Sister charity in 2012 with his sister Connie, who dared him to ride around Australia on a unicycle in the face of her terminal diagnosis with breast cancer.
In doing so, Johnson raised awareness of breast cancer across the country, as well as a whopping $1.6 million for research into the disease. He also broke the Guinness World Record for riding the longest distance on a unicycle.
Sadly, Connie passed away at 40 years of age in 2017 – a day after she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia – but her brother is carrying on her legacy with a new target of raising $10 million for breast cancer research.
Speaking at the 2019 TravelManagers Conference in Perth on Sunday, Johnson highlighted just how challenging it was to continue raising money straight after riding on a unicycle for a year.
At this point, he hadn’t yet won a Logie for playing Molly Meldrum in the TV mini-series Molly yet, and was yet to win Dancing with the Stars, so Johnson “didn’t have much of a profile to leverage”.
“I hadn’t been on anything for 10 [to] 12 years since The Secret Life of Us. It’s not like it was easy then as it is now. It was really, really challenging,” he told conference attendees.
“Basically, me and Connie agreed to do it the old-fashioned way. We said we’ll do it face to face, town to town.”
“My point being is that if you want to engage, it’s really most effectively done face to face, and I knew that if anyone was going to help us, I wasn’t going to treat that lightly. We were going to thank them properly if they helped us.”
Through all of his fundraising difficulties, Johnson knew he would never get to $10 million if he didn’t care more about the donor than the donor did about him, which led the 41-year-old to quit acting to focus on Love Your Sister.
“I left showbiz to demonstrate my commitment; to show that I was willing to unicycle 16,000 kilometres to help keep our families cancer-free,” he said.
“[I was] demonstrating every day that I was doing whatever it takes and at the end of the day I’ll say ‘thank you’.
“Whenever we go out and about, I don’t roll out a fundraising template, helicopter in and grab the money, and say ‘thanks, see you later’. It’s a next-level community engagement strategy.
“I’m in the town for 19 days going to the primary schools [and] the high schools, I’ve done deals with Department of Housing, I do home visits, I do street parties, I do workplaces, I come and speak to travel managers.
“Basically, I’m demonstrating every day that the customer is all I have, and I’m showing them in very real, demonstrable ways how important they are.”