DODY'S DREAM: THE DODY WOOD STORY
I was born in San Angelo, Texas to my loving parents, Clifford and Eunice Smith. My mother and father were wonderful people and were terribly in love with each other. I was the younger of two children. The oldest child was my brother Jimmy, who was three years older.
My father had a slipped disc in his back, but back then the doctors didn’t operate on it. He was a contractor and built homes. If he injured his back, he could have been paralyzed for life, so he had to quit the job he loved and worked at all of his life. He started a sales job selling dairy products—milking machines, milk tanks and farming equipment. My mother had to go to work. She worked as a seamstress making seat covers and became a clothes designer. She made her own patterns and was very talented, even though she had little formal education. She also worked at a Johnson & Johnson manufacturing plant.
My brother Jimmy was born with a birth defect with his knee cap on the side of one leg. My parents could not afford the operations he needed, so Jimmy was the recipient of an Easter Seals grant and they paid Scottish Rite Hospital to do the surgeries. Every summer, my family would travel from San Angelo to Dallas, leave Jimmy, and return home. He had to go during the summer time because of school. Jimmy was left alone for up to two weeks at a time and he would wake up to a room of strangers. He was age 7 when his surgeries began and I was only age 4. This process went on for a 16-year period. Jimmy had 16 operations on one leg and 6 operations on the other leg. When they took the knee joint off of his leg, his leg didn’t grow like it should, so they had to shorten his good leg too. Jimmy would have been 6 feet, 6 inches tall, but he is 6 feet. There’s one thing that people don’t understand. When you have someone who is disabled in your family, your whole family is disabled. It’s not just one person. It’s everybody in the family.
They say that children are impacted by what happens to them when they were young. The impact it had on me was that no mother should have to go through what my mother went through. My mother would cry all the time, knowing that her child was far away from her, in pain, and waking up to strangers. So many nights, I heard my mother cry herself to sleep. So, I’ve always had this desire to help—to do something. All of those years, I saw my brother just wanting to be normal, so I know how people with disabilities feel. Jimmy wanted to be like every other child. Jimmy played games like baseball with the neighborhood kids. There were a bunch of boys in our neighborhood and he always wanted me on his team, because he knew I was good. I was a big tomboy. He would stand at the baseball plate, hit the ball, grab his crutches and run. It was amazing how fast he could run on those crutches.
My father and mother fought for the rights of people who were disabled back when there wasn’t anything available to help. Jimmy wanted desperately to be in the band. He played the trombone and my parents fought for Jimmy to march in the band. He could not bend his knees, but my parents insisted that he march with the band. The band said no, but my father raised so much of a fuss, the band let Jimmy do it. I grew up in that kind of atmosphere. When you have something in your family, you fight for it, no matter what it is. It takes a lot of unity in your family and love. My father died of cancer when I was 22 years old. After my father’s death, my mother developed Alzheimer’s and later died from the disease.
Growing up seeing my family face the healthcare challenges they did created a major impact on me since I was 4 years old. My early experiences as a child influenced me to work diligently for the cause of providing healthcare to individuals and families who can’t afford it. That is my mission.
If you look in the newspapers or watch TV, you will see something every single week about the healthcare crisis in this country and how it’s affecting the lives of millions of people. Millions of people have no health insurance and it’s not going to get any better unless we do something. I’ve seen firsthand what happens in a family when you don’t have the means to provide good healthcare. There are also many people with health insurance, but they lack prescription, dental, vision or accident benefits.
To me, there’s nothing out there better than USA+. You can compare it to other healthcare benefits and savings programs and you cannot find anything that compares to it. In 1988, when my husband Paul Wood and his company became the exclusive marketing organization for USA+, I assisted Paul and the association with the development of new association benefits. He tried the association benefits on me. He would sit down and say, what do you think Dody? Would you buy that? I’ve tried to view the USA+ benefits as someone looking in from the outside—a consumer. That’s why I was always shown the benefits first before anyone else.
United Service Association For Health Care (USA+) has provided healthcare benefits and savings programs for individuals, families, businesses and groups since 1988. USA+ negotiates medical, prescription, dental and vision care benefits for its members. USA+ membership is NOT an insurance policy, however, a USA+ membership saves you money on your everyday basic and routine healthcare.
United Service Association For Health Care is truly a unique association due to our community-relations arm—the USA+ Foundation. Early on, I was instrumental in creating this philanthropic non-profit organization, as I had a dream to give back to communities across the nation. I knew the potential was huge and I knew its members would be willing to help. In the beginning, the association membership voluntarily donated to charities, non-profit organizations and community-service entities. As the founder and chairman of the USA+ Foundation, a non-profit organization providing grants to worthwhile charities nationwide. As we work together, we can continue our goal and vision of giving from the heart to financially assist those in need.
GIVING BACK FROM THE HEART
The USA+ Foundation has awarded over $8 million to over 200 charities. Some recent grant recipients include: American Diabetes Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Muscular Dystrophy Association, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®, United Cerebral Palsy, Watson Children’s Shelter and the Women’s Shelter. The TV broadcast of Dody's Dream aired on CNBC November 2002 and on the Health Channel December 2002. Dody was named WBSN 2003 Woman of the Year and was honored as a 2004 Healthcare Heroes Award Recipient.