At five years old, Dody’s little heart hurt as she listened to her mother cry herself to sleep night after night, summer after summer. At the end of each school year, her brother Jimmy would be whisked off to Scottish Rite Hospital, hours from their San Angelo home, for another round of surgeries in an effort to correct his birth defect: Jimmy was born with his knee cap on one side of one leg. The process went on for 16 years.

“No mother should have to go through what my mother went through,” says Dody. “She would cry all the time, knowing that her child was far away from her, in pain, and waking up to strangers. My brother just wanted to play with his friends, to be normal. I know how people with disabilities feel—and when one person in a family is disabled, the whole family is disabled.

“Our family’s struggles made a huge impact on me. I’ve always had this desire to help, to do something to ease the pain of others.”

For all those years Dody’s family worked so hard, they still could not afford the 22 operations Jimmy needed—but thankfully, Easter Seals paid his way. Dody promised she would do the same for others some day.

Goals Achiever

At 16, Dody was approached at church by a young man who boldly asked her, “Where did you get that beautiful blonde hair?”

“I grew it!” she replied. Thus began an extraordinary relationship between two people of matched passion and drive. Dody and Paul have spent the past forty years in partnership as friends, business associates, parents of three children and supporters of thousands more.

“Paul taught me how to dream big,” says Dody. “Growing up as the oldest of nine children in a two-room, ramshackle house, he had a fierce determination to make his way in the world.”

When he was a young insurance salesman, Paul called on a man who saw his potential. Saying “no” to insurance that day, the prospect said “yes” to Paul’s future by gifting him with two books: How to Win Friends and Influence People and Think and Grow Rich.

“Being the smart guy my husband is,” says Dody, “he decided to read Think and Grow Rich first, because he figured he’d have plenty of friends if he got rich!”

Paul went on to attain every goal he ever set, and nearly always before his self-imposed deadlines. Using Scotch tape (this was in the pre–sticky note era), he would post notes and photos that represented his goals on his car visor, on the mirror where he shaved, and wherever else his eyes might land. Dody watched him accomplish one goal after another.

Setting his sights on owning his own insurance company by the time he turned 30, he characteristically met his goal one year early, at age 29.

 

Profits For Many

With Dody at his side, Paul built an extremely successful family-owned insurance company that served communities around the country. In 1988, his company became the exclusive marketing organization for USA+, a not-for-profit association providing individuals and groups with healthcare benefits and savings programs. Dody’s mission of helping people afford healthcare was being realized.

As always, Paul focused his efforts and met his business goals. Ruminating over what they might do with their profits, Dody saw an even greater opportunity and founded the philanthropic USA+ Foundation as a vehicle for funding charities, non-profit organizations and community service entities.

As Founder and Chairperson of the Foundation, Dody was on track to fully realize her dream of giving back. She focused her mind and efforts on turning her acorn into a mighty oak.

“While assisting Paul with the development of new benefits for members of the association, I had the idea that our members might like to join me in contributing to our larger community. So I offered them an opportunity to donate one dollar per month of their membership dues to serving families in need.”

Today the per-member contribution stands at $2/month, and while that may not sound like a lot of money, says Foundation President Lana Montgomery Couch, it adds up. Over the 16 years she has served the Foundation, Lana reports, they have raised more than $6 million.

“With grants typically ranging from $8,000 to $10,000, the Foundation has been able to support the work of so many organizations,” she says. Among the over 200 charities it has supported are the American Diabetes Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Muscular Dystrophy Association and United Cerebral Palsy.

The Foundation directly donated more than $1 million to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®, the world’s premier center dedicated to the research and treatment of catastrophic childhood diseases. In addition, they partnered with Randy Owen and hundreds of country singers to initiate and then sponsor the first 15 years of Country Cares for St. Jude Kids®, a radiothon that reaches more than 15 million listeners in 46 states across America. From this outreach, St. Jude’s raised nearly $200 million.

 

Big Dreams Require Bold Moves

While $6 million in donations seems to most like a lot of gifting, Dody knows what it takes to really serve families in need. So she set her next goal: gifting $1 million per month to charities. To reach that goal, she knew she would have to be innovative. She turned to the network marketing model.

“My husband taught me the importance of setting and striving for goals. He always said to aim high: if your dream is strong enough, it will happen. So I settled on a goal of giving back $1 million a month to the community. It seemed a lofty goal at the time, but surely attainable through network marketing.”

As a traditional businessman who had made his fortune through conventional marketing, Paul was not interested in network marketing. Nevertheless, Dody pursued her dream with a passion and Paul finally relented. As he began researching successful networking companies, he soon found exactly what it was that had so excited Dody: People in network marketing companies love a cause, and because of that, person-to-person marketing clearly had the potential to more quickly achieve the goal they now shared.

They learned about the huge downlines that can be built with committed representatives and a solid product like theirs. All they would need is 500,000 contributing members and they would hit the target of a million a month for charity. Then Dody would set her next goal.

 

Infused with a Giving Spirit

Foundation President Lana Montgomery Couch had been with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation when Dody Wood met her nearly 16 years ago. Having just completed her Masters Degree in Human Relations in Business, Lana was on the lookout for a new opportunity; Dody was looking for someone to run the Foundation.

“We stole her,” says Dody, and they both laugh. Hearing Lana and Dody together sounds like a meeting of the executive committee of a mutual admiration society.

“Lana was used to raising money for charity,” says Dody. “Now she gets to give money to charity.”

“Dody is the heart and soul of the Foundation,” says Lana. “Her dream inspires other people to go out and reach their dreams. Network marketing is the perfect vehicle. We could never reach the goal of gifting $1 million per month through a more traditional marketing means.”

 

Working for a Cause

Most people join a network marketing business to earn extra money. Their representatives get an added bonus, Lana points out: They know their sales help not only themselves but also many others across the nation.

When the Foundation began, the top salespeople were asked to choose the charities of their choice in their local areas. Today, the Foundation still focuses on people in need wherever their sales force is active. This year, for example, the Grand Prairie Boys and Girls Club was the recipient of funding for their Keystone Character Program. The Foundation partnered with the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Royals Foundations to support the Rich in Spirit Foundation and Athletes in Action.

Some of the network marketing representatives choose their work because of the philanthropy that is part of their company’s mission.

Representative Beatrice Stephens and her “Team Hope” exemplify this giving spirit. She and her team enjoy initiating and participating in many community service projects in their home area of San Antonio. During one such project, she invited Dody and Paul to one of her team meetings at a local Melting Pot restaurant. The Melting Pot was sponsoring a competition among the restaurants in their chain to raise money for St. Jude’s. The winning restaurant would get to send a waitress to St. Jude’s to personally deliver their gift of financial support.

At their meeting that night, Dody and Paul learned that the waitress who was serving them was that restaurant’s chosen representative—and that their restaurant was in second place. The Foundation wrote a check for $5,000 on the spot and moved them into first place.

“There’s just no way to describe what a humbling experience it is to go to St. Jude Children’s Hospital,” says Dody. “When you walk out of there, your life is never the same.”

No words can describe the feeling of joy felt by those who contribute to this program.

 

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Paul and Dody are proud of what they offer their representatives.

Dody asks, “What better way for people to help others? First, we offer a way to save money, then a way to make money, and at the same time, a way to give money to others in need.”

Unlike other Foundations who have to raise their money in an increasingly competitive fundraising environment, Dody’s vision and creative strategies fill the coffer with proceeds from the sale of their products.

“It’s $2 from every product, no matter what product,” she says. Lana adds, “Every company magazine reminds our representatives that the contribution is voluntary. In my 16 years with the Foundation, there have been only three or four people who have chosen not to participate.”

Using the principles in Think and Grow Rich, Paul and Dody have shown that with discipline, perseverance and courage, they can turn their dreams into reality. Fortunately for so many, their dreams are satisfied only when others’ dreams come true.