Rob Derrick has lived in Creston nearly his whole life and continues to live on the 30-acre ranch he grew up on. It’s not just any ranch, however, but the site of Derrick Family Home 1 and 2, which house a total of 10 developmentally disabled people – eight adults and Derrick’s daughters, Danielle, 22, and Dayna, 14 – as well as Derrick and his wife, Roberta “Robbi Ann, “his parents, Jim and Donna Derrick, and his aunt and uncle.
Derrick said he was born into the business of Derrick Family Home because his grandmother, Peggy Stanke, started the home 50 or 60 years ago, before Derrick was even born. He said he’s not sure why his grandmother started the home, but when she died he knew he wanted to keep it going because the women who lived there were like his old sisters, even though their minds were that of children.
Of the eight – besides his own children – who reside there currently, the shortest time one has lived there is 23 years and the longest is 47 years. Derrick’s family – including his grandma who started the home in Southern California – moved to Creston in 1972. Derrick attended school in Atascadero, graduating from Atascadero High School in 1986. That same year, he joined the Navy and served in that branch for 10 years before joining the Marine Corp., which he served for six years. He left the service completely in 2002. During that time he lived around the world, including living in Sasabo, Japan, for six years. While in the Navy, Derrick served in Desert Storm but never touched shore because he was in a boat – he was a boatswain mate.
He joined the service because his father had been in the Army. While his father served during Vietnam, his side of the bus was sent to Germany while the other half was sent to Vietnam, Derrick said.
“I just wanted to get out and see the world, so I did,” he said about why he joined the military.
It was in the service that Derrick, who teaches CPR and first aid around the county, got the opportunity to teach those lifesaving skills. However, he said that his wanting to help others learn those skills came when his eldest daughter had to have open heart surgery at the age of 6.
“It changed me,” Derrick said. “I wanted to help people.”
He started teaching CPR and first aid while in the Marine Corp. He said he’d teach 65 to 80 men over the course of a weekend. To date, he said he has taught more than 40,000 students lifesaving skills.
Derrick said he has a goal that at least one person in every household will be certified in CPR and first aid.
“I do CR to help people on our community save each other because EMS can’t always be there,” Derrick said. “Everyone around you that is certified makes you safer.”
Derrick spends about four days a week training individuals, groups and classes at the San Luis Obispo YMCA. He also teaches lifesaving skills to American Red Cross volunteers. After Hurricane Katrina hit, he trained a lot of local people before they headed to the New Orleans area. Derrick said he not only teaches the skills, but does it in a way that is interesting and funny so that his students pay attention and remember what they learned.
“I tell people, if you want to help someone you’ve got to do it,” Derrick said. “The sooner you help them, the better the change they have at survival.”
Not only does he teach the skills, he puts them to action when he’s out in the world. He has saved seven out of eight people he’s given CPR to out on the street. A few years ago he traveled around the country with a friend competing in archery tournaments. He said he came across many car crashes in that traveling and helps out when needed. If EMS personnel are on-site, he keeps driving, but if a police is there without EMS, he asks if help is needed. But if no emergency personnel are on-scene, he stops. He said he teaches all of his students this.
While teaching CPR and first aid is a career Derrick is passionate about, his family – including the developmentally disabled adults who reside there – is the top of his list. He said they family spends 30 to 40 days traveling each year. The decision of where to go, Derrick said, is a democratic process where everyone gets the opportunity to throw out a location and then they all vote. The trip includes 16 to 18 people caravanning in four RVs – the group includes Derrick, his wife, their daughters, the eight residents, Derrick’s parents and aunt and uncle, and a couple of friends.
Archery is Derrick’s stress reliever and got into it when he was in the service. He got back into it when a friend of his wanted to start competing in tournaments around the country. He stopped traveling for tournaments when he began teaching CPR more. Now, Derrick has a bow range in his backyard and the kids – what he calls Derrick Family Home residents – do archery together.
Except for his time in the service, Derrick has lived in Creston – on that 30-acre ranch. He has known his wife since elementary school – she lived down the street, he said. They were friends growing up, which led to more than friendship and in 1988 they married. Derrick’s wedding band has a wolf’s head on it. He said it is usually a conversation starting point. He said he chose the wolf for his wedding band because “wolves mate once for life – no matter what.”
This story was originally published in Journal Plus in February 2014.