Nebraska’s O’Dea brothers “show” heifers for nursing home residents

By Deanna NelsonLicking for TriState Livestock News

Black Friday has become synonymous with greed and selfishness, as consumers line up for hours, even days, to fight over the biggest and best shopping deals of the year. In contrast, two brothers from rural Nebraska decided to spend the day after Thanksgiving 2020 visiting the shuttered residents of a long-term care facility.

The O’Dea family from Indianola, Nebraska, have raised and shown cattle for many years. Traditionally Black Friday has been the date of a large stock show in Norfolk, Nebraska, but due to liability issues for the host university it was canceled because of Covid 19, just like so many others have been this year. High school senior Jake O’Dea was visiting with his father John one day while feeding. The boring and monotonous life of the residents of local long-term care facilities came up; they have been shuttered away from family and friends for months and the toll it has taken on the healthcare workers. Wanting to give back to the community, John reached out to the director of Hillcrest Care Facility in McCook, Nebraska, who agreed to their plan. His sons G and Jake took two show prospect heifers and put on a cattle show for the residents.

The brothers led the haltered heifers around to all the windows and answered questions. “It was a change of pace, broke the monotony, we went for the smiles and it was rewarding. Folks with an Ag background were our target audience, but everyone was really happy to see us and something new. Some of them had kids or grandkids that had showed so we set up the heifers and had a mini show. And every trip is good for the cattle,” Jake said.

John O’Dea posted a photo of the “Show” on Facebook under the hashtag #Showon, which has been used to encourage folks to keep working and showing even when events are canceled. The post has been shared over thirteen hundred times and has close to a thousand likes. So far they have even heard of a family taking show calves to a nursing home in West Virginia. The O’Dea’s hope to inspire more livestock show families to make the effort to bring a bit of sunshine to the lives of our senior citizens.

“One of my idols growing up was Merlin. Hard working, fair, shrewd and loved a good time and had a very low BS threshold. I knew he was in a nursing home but I didn’t realize he had been moved to McCook. His daughter-in-law Pam called me, to thank the boys and I for taking the heifers to the nursing home. She said it was the first time he had smiled in months. She said every day she goes to see him through the window and he talks about “Them O’Dea boys bringing those heifers right up to the window!” Knowing that we made life a little more bearable for one of my heroes was the best gift I could receive this Holiday season,” said John O’Dea.

G and Jake O’Dea sharing their life and heifers with the residents of Hillcrest Care Facility in McCook, Nebraska. Photo courtesy O'Dea family