2 November 2021

'To see the smiles on children's faces is priceless': John Rodd named Riverina's Club Volunteer of the Year

| Max O'Driscoll
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John Rodd, Henry Pavitt and Margaret McDonald

John Rodd with young Henry Pavitt and Margaret McDonald. Photo: Supplied.

John Rodd is a semi-retired cattle farmer from Wagga Wagga.

He may have been raising and donating young steers to raise money for local community groups for more than 20 years, but he was still surprised when named Riverina’s Club Volunteer of the Year for 2021.

“We’ve done quite a few steers for charity and with the RSL club we’ve managed to sell 14 steers – coming up to number 15 early next year – but as to why they thought I might have been worthy of it, I really don’t know,” he said.

The proceeds on the sale of the 15th steer will, as usual, head to local special education school Willans Hill School. The funds will assist its purchase of a new bus to help get the children to and from their daily activities.

How it works is Wagga Wagga RSL Club purchases the steer and Mr Rodd manages it. He prepares the steer for interaction with humans, which can be a challenge, and when it has calmed, he introduces it to the children at Willans Hill School.

The children’s first task is naming the steer, with Happy, Merlin, Ben, Rodney and Elsa all prior names that have been chosen. The children are then taken on a field trip to where the steer lives, giving it a pat and taking a photo with it before visiting other animals on the farm.

The secondary school children then travel to the Wagga Wagga Sale Yards where they watch the auction and then return to Wagga Wagga RSL Club for a celebratory lunch post-sale.

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It’s a creative source of real-world education for the children, and it all came about quite organically.

“My girls were still at school and they were interested in agriculture,” said Mr Rodd. “They used to get some steers along and take them to local shows. So I went in and joined that, and helped them prepare and teach them to lead, took them to shows and that sort of thing.

“Then I was approached by a foundation member of Country Hope and they said, ‘How about doing a steer for our charity,’ and then the same thing happened with the former President of the RSL club – he approached me and said, ‘How about doing one for us,’ and that’s where it all started from.”

In the more than 20 years since he began working with local charities and organisations, it’s estimated Mr Rodd’s work, aided by his daughters, has raised a staggering $208,000, which has provided valuable support to the Wagga Wagga community.

He said it’s something he’ll continue to do for as long as he can.

“It’s certainly a reason for me to get out of bed in the morning,” said Mr Rodd. “I’ve been in the cattle industry all my life and I never get sick of looking at cattle. It’s a way of keeping my interest up, as well.”

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His nominator for the NSW Volunteer of the Year Award said, “John’s hard work has affected many people’s lives, with the recipient’s health and happiness being enhanced not just because of the financial gain but because of the purpose and education these steers give.”

Willans Hill School principal Terri Inglis said the school was thrilled to hear of Mr Rodd’s Club Volunteer of the Year award.

“John has provided so many opportunities for students not only through raising the steer at his house out of his own pocket, and then the money coming to the school, [but in the] money he and all the combined people at the RSL and aristocrats have raised, it supports our students to go out in the community every week,” she said.

“The things he has done are long-lasting. It’s not just that he raised a cow; we use the funds from that every week. Also, his compassion and his calming nature with the students is amazing.”

While the recognition for his work is nice, it’s certainly not the reason Mr Rodd does what he does.

“To see the smiles on the children’s faces is priceless,” he said.

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John I am so proud of what you have achieved, as I am also proud of the RSL Wagga for keeping the Charity steer going.
Wagga Past President (Retired)
John Keyes

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