Darol Rodrock is making good on a promise he made to himself long ago, as a troubled youth bouncing in and out of Kansas-area orphanages and foster homes. The former Shawnee Mission School District high school educator and wrestling coach and now Johnson County new-home community developer has established the Darol Rodrock Foundation, dedicated to “building bridges for area foster children,” Rodrock said.
Rodrock said the newly formed foundation aims to help area children living in orphanages and in foster care grow up healthy in heart, mind and body.
“My hope is that helping these children will guide them to become better equipped as adults to make positive life-long differences and realize their potential,” Rodrock said.
Rodrock added that a board of directors has been established and he and his organization are working hand in hand with area child advocacy experts to identify ways to most effectively help. According to Rodrock, the first order of business is to ensure that all Foundation funds, whether his own endowment or donations from caring individuals, directly benefit the children the foundation serves. Also of importance to Rodrock, “is that this work continues forever.”
The official launch for the charitable foundation is an admittedly large-scale fundraiser in honor of Rodrock’s milestone 70th birthday, being held Jan. 17. Plans for the event are still being finalized, although Rodrock has announced that Blue Sky Riders, a band comprised of singer, songwriter and guitarist Kenny Loggins, Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr will appear.
“What better time to kick off the foundation than by granting this wish for Darol’s birthday,” said Brenda Sanders, vice president of strategic development. “He’s given so much to Johnson County’s residents, cities, construction and real estate industries. Everyone is so excited to help him realize this dream.”
According to those closest to Rodrock, establishing the foundation is the culmination of a life-long quest to leave the world a better place than he knew growing up.
“It’s been well documented in articles about Darol over his 45-year home builder and residential community developer career that the most important aspect of his job was holding fast to his vision of creating communities that are more like small towns, where people know one another and look out for each other,” Sanders said. “For Darol, and I say this sincerely, it’s never been about just buying and selling land, but creating the kind of supportive community environment he didn’t have growing up and leaving a positive, lasting legacy.”
As he’s often recounted, Rodrock’s life began to turn around when, at age 14, one of his teachers, Lavone Robinson, and her husband, Ray, took him in, providing the stability and loving support that he had never known, and educational opportunities that would prove life changing.
“They provided unwavering guidance and a college education,” said the KU graduate, who later went on to pay his own way to earning his master’s degree in education.
As an educator, Rodrock served 11 years in the Shawnee Mission School District. The Shawnee Mission East High School history teacher also served as a championship-winning wrestling coach.
To help support his growing family, Rodrock started earning extra money painting houses, eventually becoming a home builder. Thirty-five years ago Rodrock embarked on a residential development career and today numbers approximately 80 new-home communities throughout Johnson County under the Rodrock Development ‘Building Better Communities’ banner.
Rodrock said the childhood lessons he learned served as a guiding principle throughout his real estate career.
“I’ve always sought to build homes, not just houses. Our company doesn’t even use the word subdivisions. Our goal is to create communities that, from the start, feel like neighborhoods where families can thrive, where neighbors connect, feel welcome and have the ability to live life to the fullest,” Rodrock said.
It’s also why, he said, he created the Rodrock Development Moms Council concept decades ago, encouraging community volunteers to help plan community activities where newcomers could get to know each other and have fun. Today these events include annual year-round spring Easter egg hunts, summer pool opening parties, July 4 bike-a-thons and holiday horse-drawn hayride parties.
“I’ll admit, it was and is a personal joy for me to see fathers spending time with their children and families and neighbors enjoying fellowship and a sense of belonging,” Rodrock said.
“There is no way I can ever repay the Johnsons, and others along the way, for their many kindnesses,” he continued. “Other than to do whatever I can to help other ‘young Darols’ in our area embrace and achieve life-affirming possibilities.”
For information about the Darol Rodrock Foundation and the upcoming Jan. 17 fund-raising celebration, watch this section of The Kansas City Star, visit the Foundation website at DarolRodrockFoundation.org, or contact Brenda Sanders at email@example.com or call 913-238-6370.