Each year the Cody Medical Foundation recognizes volunteers in our community for their outstanding service. Congratulations to the 2017 honorees:  Bill and Brent Holder, Linda Johnson, and Kathy and Bud McDonald!

Bill Holder and Brent Holder  

Father and son make a difference

Brent and Bill Holder

Bill and Brent Holder are a family of volunteers. The father and son have been contributing to Wyoming communities for most of their lives. Bill a longtime pilot for Search and Rescue, flies statewide in some of Wyoming’s most unpredictable terrain. Brent, who founded the Cody Skylighters, www.codyskylighters.com, in 1995, orchestrates the non-profit, all-volunteer crew that provides Cody with the spectacular Fourth of July fireworks display that lights our skies every summer. Every year, Brent raises all of the funds for the show from community donations.

Bill grew up in the historic oilfield towns of the Big Horn Basin. Like many early Wyoming families, Bill’s family followed the economic trends of the oil industry. He moved from Oregon Basin, to Grass Creek, and then to Powell. After graduating from Thermopolis High School, he worked in the oil fields driving trucks. According to Bill with a nod to Brent, “I met a Cody girl, Donna. She raised four good kids. Well most of them anyway. He (Brent) still hasn’t forgiven me for being born in North Dakota”

Brent has lived in Cody for the past 27 years and his son Trent also volunteers with the Cody Skylighters. Brent is an adventurous outdoorsman who caves and skydives. His dad was his jump pilot for many of his jumps. As a child, Brent remembers, “ We’d fly to spot sheep or elk for hunters, write a note (with the location), fly next to the hunting camp, and I’d drop rock and note. I loved it.”

Bill’s father was a pilot and he got his start at an early age. A marine pilot in Big Piney taught him how to fly a Cub. In his second week of flying they were asked to search for a downed aircraft near Lander.  Now, with spotters, GPS tracking, and radios, Bill flies for Search and Rescue yearlong, often in treacherous weather. With respect he describes flying in the Wind Rivers, “It can get really interesting, pretty treacherous. Right now, at 10,000 feet the wind is 75 miles an hour. And you’re gonna fly in the canyons. You better know before you go or you’re gonna be like a bug on a windshield. You check it out.  You fly up the ridges. You go down the canyon. Stay on upwind side of the canyon. That’s automatic. If you don’t do it you just die.”

When the Jaycees decided to not to put on the fireworks Brent stepped up to keep the tradition alive. He asked his buddies to help him, they did, and the all-volunteer Cody Skylighters was born. Says Brent, “It would break my heart to not have fireworks for one thing. It’s a hell of a lot of work for 20 minutes of fun, but I totally enjoy it. Everyone works to have the best 4th of July every single year.”

Putting on the current fireworks shows takes yearlong fundraising by Brent. Says Brent about the 15 to 20 dedicated volunteers who help, “Some of the people have been with us since the beginning, some had to leave but returned. We’ve got some great people.” Every year Brent and the crew set up wiring and charges, dig in, dig out the canisters, and then return on the fifth to clean up debris. Brent orchestrates the shows by radio, orders the fireworks, confirms safety, obtains the necessary insurance, and oversees the show. He’s been the president and treasurer. Says volunteer Bob Coe, “ Brent’s a very good person. Anybody who knows him knows he’s a giving soul.”

On the wall of Brent’s business Computers & You, is a quote from Thomas Edison, “ The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work.” Father and son have contributed a lot of hard work to the benefit of our Cody community.

Linda Johnson

Commitment to those who need it most

Linda has life long commitment to her faith, family, and community. “I’m so honored to receive this distinction, and highly commend the Cody Medical Foundation for their work with in our community. They make such a difference in peoples’ lives”, says Linda Johnson. Ann Simpson shares, “She is one of the most committed people. She works tirelessly. Anything she undertakes she does with loving care and concern.”

Linda Johnson

Born in Hollis, Oklahoma, she grew up in the church playing the organ and piano from when she was six years old, for her father’s Rotary Club, children’s groups, and as an accompanist for local choirs. Recounts Linda, “My mother was a community volunteer. My father, a doctor, saw many families who needed care during difficult years. As a child, I learned first hand to appreciate acts of kindness and giving from my parents”.

In 1970 Linda and her family moved to Cody. During that time, while raising four children, she served on the Shoshone Recreation Board and as it’s Secretary, was President of AAUW, and on the vestry of Christ Episcopal Church where she played the piano and organ. While on the Shoshone Recreation Board she started the first Halloween Carnival Cody – a tradition that continues today.

Linda was Al Simpson’s Park County Campaign Chairman and then his Field Representative for North West Wyoming. “I loved everything about it; helping Al get elected, working with the citizens of Park County, and the staff ”, she recalls.  Says Al,” She was just a jewel, always aware of the needs of other people. There was no more loving or compassionate person. She was thorough, with not a careless bone in her body. An inspiration to all who know her, a friend’s friend.”

Linda also joined forces with other AAUW members to successfully initiate a public campaign to get kindergarten in the public schools. Jan Herman who worked with Linda at AAUW and later on the board of Habitat for Humanity adds, “It’s hard to imagine a time in Cody without Kindergarten. That was pretty wonderful when it happened.”

Recalls Linda,  “One thing that has been exceptionally transformative in my life, is the birth of my daughter Jenny, who has special needs. As her caregiver, I see her teach our family such kindness, compassion, and patience with unconditional love. The love she shares with everyone is so authentic. Through Jenny I see how small acts of kindness can make such a huge difference in people’s lives. I try to choose projects that help fulfill people’s needs when they are unable to accomplish that on their own.” When special needs programs in the public school system were limited, Linda helped raise a million dollars to build anew facility at the Big Horn Basin Children’s Center in Thermopolis to better serve special needs children in the Big Horn Basin.

Through Christ Episcopal Church she volunteers at the Heart Mountain Volunteer Medical Clinic, plays the piano for the West Park Hospital Long Term Care Center, Brookdale Absaroka, and has played other church choirs. Linda is on the Christ Church Mission Committee whose purpose is “to support outreach projects that serve the social, mental, physical and environmental needs and enrich the lives of those in our local, state, regional, national, and international communities”.

One of Linda’s favorite quotes is by Lincoln poet Edwin Markham is, “There is a destiny which makes us brothers; none goes his way alone. All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own”.

Kathy and Bud McDonald

A love of community and mans’ best friends

Kathy and Bud McDonald were both born in Houston Texas. They relocated along with Kathy’s parents to Cody in 1994 and have been volunteering in the Cody community ever since.

Kathy and Bud McDonald with Milo
Kathy and Bud McDonald with Milo

Kathy has been an active member of the Chamber of Commerce since 1994, a past president, and a board member for four years. She served on numerous Chamber of Commerce Committees such as Cody Country Ambassador’s Committee, the Transportation Committee, Yellowstone Regional Airport Board, and the National Parks Committee. She was an active member with the Soroptimists from 1995-1998.

In 1995 Bud joined the Optimists. He managed the Community Thanksgiving Dinner and helped fundraise for Christmas Toy drives, and the Oktober Fests. He served on the Cody Planning and Zoning Board, was the Special Liaison for Home Improvement Loans for the Elderly, and a member and chairman of the Architectural Advisory Board.

When Kathy and Bud moved to Cody, they knew they wanted to see the kind of successful animal assisted therapy they had worked with in Houston. Says Kathy, “We knew first hand the value of pet therapy in conjunction with medical care”.   In 1998 their dream was realized when the Plane Tree Organization at the West Park Hospital implemented a pet therapy program.  Plane Tree’s mission is, “To provide extraordinary healthcare to those we serve by people who care”. According to Graham Jackson with the West Park Hospital Foundation, “Kathy is a volunteer to the core, an awesome person.”

Kathy and her Bassett Hound, Beau, were in the first class to be certified for the pet therapy program. The program has proven to be very beneficial to patients and staff and the West Park Hospital, the Long Term Care Center, Spirit Mountain Hospice, and in the public schools. Children particularly love the reading program. The pet therapy dogs patiently sit and listen as children read to them. Kathy, now with Milo, makes monthly presentations at the hospital and together they demonstrate the value of pet therapy programs to new employees.

In 2007, Kathy’s and Bud’s love for dogs led them to found the remarkable non-profit 3 Dog Rescue. They named it after their first three fostered dogs; Angus a Labrador Retriever, Pumba a Bassett Hound, and Roxy a Retriever.  “My three legged girl”, as Kathy affectionately calls Roxy, who still lives with Kathy and Bud.

Their mission is straightforward, to rescue rehabilitate, and rehome all breeds of dogs. Kathy explains, “Many dogs are unable to go into a shelter environment or have medical issues that can’t be addressed. 3 Dog Rescue is the only all breeds rescue in Northern Wyoming and places more dogs annually than our two local shelters”. People can find 3 Dog Rescue on Facebook.

What motivates the McDonalds?  In Kathy’s words,” Love of community and the desire to serve not only the people in our community, but to help dogs provide medical care and have happy homes. Most of all, we want to promote the value of pets in our daily lives”.

Images and articles by Cindy Bennett

Click here to view the 2016 honorees