Randy Dodge wears a big cowboy hat, a belt with a big rodeo buckle, blue jeans and cowboy boots. He has become somewhat of a fixture at the Wednesday meetings of the Rotary Club of Farragut – but he’s not a Rotarian. He’s a caregiver.
Many Rotarians know him as the caregiver for Phill Bradbury, a member of the club along with wife Judith. Phill has advanced Parkinson’s disease and requires 24/7 care. Randy is the daytime in-home caregiver from Choices in Senior Care/Knoxville, and when Phill attends our meetings – and he seldom misses – Randy is with him.
But Randy, 57, also has another cowboy hat he wears – as the head of Randy Dodge Cowboy Ministries. He and his wife, Martha, live on 56 acres near Etowah, although he has a mailing address of Athens, Tenn. He is an ordained minister, and their ministry is best described by Martha:
“Randy and I hold services before rodeos in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Alabama from mid-March through November. We have rescue horses at our home between Athens and Etowah with the goal of having children and families at the ranch and farm to learn about Jesus, have moments of success and enjoy the unconditional love that these horses have to offer.”
Martha also works as the church secretary of the First Baptist Church of Sweetwater.
Randy conducts worship services for the rodeo cowboys and their families before the competitions begin; this is all volunteer work. “I also give away Bibles from the New Testament – ‘The Way for Cowboys,’” Randy says. “It’s a completely volunteer ministry and one I love doing.”
His love of horses began when he was a boy living on a Colorado ranch, 45 miles from the southeastern corner of Colorado, near Springfield, close to the border with Oklahoma. It was indeed cowboy country. They had cattle and horses on their family ranch.
Today, he and Martha have seven rescue horses, and they use them to work with people and kids with physical and intellectual disabilities.
“I just always wanted to help people,” he says of the work on the ranch and his rodeo ministry. “I grew up with horses, and my wife thinks I’m a horse whisperer. Horses are great therapy for people. About a year ago we had a gentleman at the ranch who was having problems. One of our horses sensed something was wrong and walked up to the man. They both still stood and loved on each other. It was special.”
Before the Dodges came to their Tennessee ranch six years ago, Randy worked in the medical field in Springfield. He was an emergency medical technician (EMT), has been a paramedic for 30 years and worked in the emergency room of the Southeast Colorado Hospital, all of which have been key in his role as a caregiver today. He also was a rodeo bull rider and has the fractures in his vertebrae to prove it.
Judith Bradbury tells us that Randy’s a whiz at math, too, and has been a substitute teacher. But her words about his caregiver role are special:
“He has been with us as Phill’s caregiver for two years, working at least two days a week, and currently four days per week. He is really an amazing caregiver, the kind of person every patient dreams of having take care of them as they age – very competent and skilled, highly dependable and totally devoted to the patient’s well being. I don’t know what we would do without him.”
And about all of those Rotary meetings – Randy says he enjoys his time at Rotary, getting to know the club members and being able to listen to the speakers week to week.
“Rotary is what I’m all about myself – doing for others. Its purpose is to help others, not ourselves. That’s what I’ve spent my whole life trying to do,” he says. “Phill paid me a great compliment recently. He said that he would sponsor me to be a Rotarian, and I took that as a great compliment.”
If you’re interested in exploring membership in Farragut Rotary, drop me an email or call me at (865) 659-3562. We meet at 12:15 p.m. each Wednesday at Fox Den Country Club. Join us as a guest and see how you like Rotary!