Amazing Dad: Randy Christensen
Filed under: Amazing Parents
Randy's Family: Wife: Amy Christensen, M.D., married 11 years; Kids: Twins Janie and Reed, 8, Charlotte, 6
Randy Lives In: Phoenix, Arizona
Why Randy Is Amazing: Dr. Randy Christensen tells the story of a little girl whose family has lost its income and its home. Living in a rough Arizona shelter, the girl complained of ear pain for three weeks, but the family couldn't afford medical treatment.
Then, Randy and the Crews'n Healthmobile visits. "I go in and take a look. She's in severe, severe pain," Randy says.
The traveling pediatrician performs the "simplest procedure in the world" -- removing a cockroach that had crawled into her ear and died -- and she gives him a huge hug. The family has since moved to a more stable shelter and she and her brother are able to attend school. Each time Randy visits the shelter or her school, she runs to give him a hug.
"You could never describe how good that feels," he says, with emotion creeping into his voice. "Those are the kind of kids I see on a daily basis. It is really, not only rewarding, but life-changing to see what's out there."
With the help of a team from Phoenix Children's Hospital, Randy runs the Crews'n Healthmobile. The traveling medical troupe treated its first patient in 2000, finishing that year having seen 1,000 patients. In 2009 that annual number had risen to 3,400 disadvantaged youth patients.
"From very early on, my mom and dad instilled this belief that we were responsible for our fellow humans and make our community a better place," Randy tells ParentDish in a telephone interview. "I love the population that is out in the street and living in shelters."
The Crews'n Healthmobile efforts have shown a significant decrease in emergency room visits by homeless kids. By helping to keep kids healthier, Randy says, they spend less time in emergency rooms, they attend school more often and teens can get jobs.
Randy involves his three kids with his work when he can, sharing in the success stories while shielding them from the stories that are "ungodly horrible."
"They are very involved and are excited to help out and be part of Daddy's work," he explains. "One of the ways I stay connected is keeping them involved. They very much like that."
Interviewed shortly after returning from a camping trip he took with his three children while his wife visited a relative, his advice for parents stresses what he tries to do: "No matter how crazy stuff gets, you have to schedule time with the family."
Randy makes an effort to drop off or pick up his kids from school and keep their special events on his schedule. Every couple of weeks, he'll bring his children for an early-morning cinnamon roll before school starts. He's even the kind of husband who books date nights with his wife.
He finds his inspiration from the people he meets on his job.
"My mentors are the kids who tell you the stories of the most horrible tragedies. The dark, dark things that take place and yet they get up and they are out there," he says. "I can't even imagine the difficulties they face and they go on and they succeed."
In an effort to spread the word on these kids, Randy is writing a book, "Ask Me Why I Hurt," which tells the stories of the street kids Randy has met. He says it's dedicated to his mother, who recently passed away, and scheduled for release on Mother's Day 2011. Randy hopes the book will serve as a "call to action for communities to get involved."
Randy's Wife Amy Says: "I'm glad he is doing that kind of work and serving the under-served and that he is able to do the work. He makes me really proud and he makes the kids really proud."
Recognition: In 2007, he was named a "CNN Hero," and two years ago he was profiled in People Magazine. Last year, the Arizona Republic recognized him as one of the 10 Most Fascinating People in Arizona.
Randy's Guilty Pleasures: When Randy was growing up, his family was pretty poor. When he was graduating high school in the mid-1980s, he wanted a "real sports car." Last winter, he started looking into it. To fulfill this dream, he bought himself a 1986 Toyota MRT for $500 and a mechanic is rebuilding the engine.
Randy's Best Advice: "Follow your passions. I think that too many people think you have to be a superhero to make a difference. You get out there and start doing something you really believe in, you start seeing a change."
Related: Amazing Dad: Bruce Feiler
Want to see who else made the list? Click here for the rest of AOL's 2010 Amazing Dads!
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.