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AJC Everyday Heroes: Randy Simpkins & Russell Dallas

Russell and Randy hugging.
Photo credit: Phil Skinner -- Randy Simpkins (left) & Russell Dallas chat at Hunter Park in Douglasville. Simpkins, a pastor & businessman from Carrollton, never met Dallas of Douglasville before he committed to being tested to be a kidney donor for Dallas. The transplant team at Piedmont Atlanta was ecstatic when they found Simpkins’ kidney was a “miraculous match!”

This article was featured in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Everyday Heroes, Inspire Atlanta Project.

By Nancy Badertscher, For the AJC

Dec 16, 2023

Randy Simpkins knows God was at work when he gave a kidney last year to Russell Dallas, a man he’d never met.

Simpkins, a preacher from Carrollton, was supposed to be volunteering as a chaplain ministering to hikers on the Appalachian trail but turned back because of bad weather. That freed up his schedule to go to a women’s religious retreat, where he overheard Dallas’ wife discussing her husband’s desperate need for a kidney.

Randy Simpkins, a businessman and pastor, gave a kidney to Russell Dallas, a man he had never met. Now, the two are bonded for life and want to tell their story on the big screen in hopes of finding kidneys for 100,000 on waiting lists.

Doctors later gave him little hope that he could help, saying the chances of the two being a transplant match were 1 in 10,000. Tests showed otherwise, and they became known as the “miracle match.”

Now, more than a year after their successful surgery, Simpkins and Dallas are bonded for life and dedicated to another cause: finding kidneys for the estimated 100,000 Americans who are on waiting lists for a transplant.

Photo credit: Phil Skinner

The two are working to bring their story to the big screen, convince others to be tested to be possible donors, and wipe out the waiting list.

“We’re not going to stop until we achieve our goal,” said Simpkins, owner of a family business, pastor of First Methodist Church of Bowdon, and a former Carroll County commissioner. “And if it takes the rest of my life, we’re going to do it.”

A first-class production that can draw millions is expected to cost about $5 million.

They have raised about $400,000, including $50,000 from a woman who read their story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Inspire Atlanta feature in June and wrote a check. The woman had donated a kidney 15 years ago to save an 18-month-old baby who is still living, Simpkins said.

About a dozen people also have come forward and said they want to be screened as possible donors, Simpkins said.

A script is already being developed, and actor Dean Cain, best known for playing Clark Kent/Superman in the TV series Lois & Clark (1993 to 1997), is on board as actor and producer. Internationally award-winning filmmaker Lance Dreesen has signed on as the director and a producer.

Russell and Randy in the hospital together after the transplant surgery.
Russell Dallas and Randy Simplins pictured here the day after the successful kidney transplant. Doctors said chances had been slim that Dallas would find a kidney, but he and Simpkins were what hospital staff dubbed a 1-in-10,000 "miracle match."

Cain is reprising his role as Simpkins, who he played in the movie “The Way Home.” The true story, released in 2010, is about the heart-wrenching search a decade earlier by Simpkins, his community, and strangers for his lost 2-year-old son.

“End the Wait” is expected to be the name of the movie. It’s also the name of a nonprofit they’ve created to raise money for the film and awareness of the need for kidney donors.

Russell Dallas said he can’t wait for shooting to start on the movie.

“I feel really good about the movie,” he said. “I hope it touches a lot of people. I hope anybody who sees it can realize what Randy and everybody is doing trying to reach people and get them to donate a kidney.”

Dallas turned 60 recently, something that brings it all home to Simpkins. Before their transplant, doctors told Dallas — who had diabetes, complications from a blood transfusion, and Stage 5 kidney failure — that they didn’t give him a year to live, Simpkins said.

He said Dallas and others who are on transplant lists are the heroes of the story.

“I gave him a kidney, but he’s the one who has had to deal with chronic kidney disease and the waiting game of not knowing what’s going to happen and how hard it is to reach out to people for help,” he said. “Having to rely completely on God and your fellow man is hard, and living and surviving and having faith through all that – that’s hard. All I did was go to sleep and wake up.”

Simpkins said about 38 million people in this country are believed to be living with chronic kidney disease.

“A lot of them don’t even know it,” he said. “We believe this film will change everything.”

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There is no higher calling than to save a ilfe, and we intend to save 100,000 of them.

Please join us by makng a financial contribution today by clicking the button below! Let’s do this…together!

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