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Sands records podcasts: National Disability Employment Awareness Month marked in Octob

Randy Sands worked at various jobs and did some stand-up comedy in the Twin Cities for a number of years but returned to the Worthington area in 2001 due to his battle to maintain his personal mental health. He has produced 82 podcasts under the name “Infotainment” since 2011. (Jane Turpin Moore / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON —  News of a calorically rich, ghoulishly green sandwich that’s proven to cause nightmares could send some people running in the opposite direction, while thrill seekers might race to the closest Burger King for a taste of the novelty bite.

But for Randy Sands, the fast food chain’s special edition “Nightmare King” prompted something else: New grist for his podcast wheel.

“My latest podcast is called ‘Bootastic,’” said Sands, 54, of Worthington. “I guess you could say it has a Halloween influence because I start out talking about the nightmare sandwich with the green bun.”

“Bootastic” is the latest in a string of 82 podcasts that Sands has produced under the name “Infotainment” since 2011.

Sands’ distinct sense of humor and ironic view of the world are readily on display in his podcasts, which average about 30 minutes each.

“My 81st podcast is called ‘Dr. Strawberry and Mr. Whitehouse,’” Sands said, and other titles in the series hint at Sands’ unique wit: “Trippin’ in Colorado,” “Toads and Dolls,” “Drinking and Pods” and “The Magic Wands.”

Sands draws his ideas from life experiences, the Internet and bizarre — but often true — stories he hears.

“I’m just trying to make sense of the world,” Sands said. “My podcasts aren’t a one-topic thing; some are serious, others are lighthearted.

“And the content is not all Howard Stern, but it’s not Billy Graham, either,” he chuckled.

A 1982 Worthington High School graduate, Sands has always been interested in various forms of media and technology.

As a teenager, he was a school newspaper photographer, and he later took photos for the St. Cloud State Chronicle while he pursued a degree in mass communications there.

“I wish I’d studied computers,” said Sands. “I went into video production for a while, but I’ve always liked radio.”

Sands worked at various jobs and did some stand-up comedy in the Twin Cities for a number of years but returned to the Worthington area in 2001 due to his battle to maintain his personal

mental health.

Now under treatment for a previously undiagnosed bipolar disorder, Sands is trying to find ways to put his talents and interest to good use — and become more financially self-reliant again in the process.

Brett Lehman, a vocational specialist with Southwinds ACT (associated with Southwestern Mental Health Center), has worked with Sands over the past two years. Lehman believes the ways Sands exercises his talents and skills in producing Infotainment have merit, and the possibility that the podcasts may lead to additional income for Sands is encouraging.

“Many people may not be aware that 70 percent of Southwinds clients are either employed in some fashion, are in school or volunteer,” said Lehman.

Because October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Lehman points to the many positives that are realized when people dealing with mental health issues are working.

“Having meaningful work is important because it increases self-esteem, enhances quality of life, is therapeutic, has social benefits, brings a regularity to one’s day and week and can provide a sense of contributing to the greater community,” Lehman listed.

“And the stereotype of people living ‘off the system’ is not very accurate because, in fact, many people with various disabilities are employed — and not all disabilities are immediately evident.”

Sands says he has “learned podcasting from the ground up,” incorporating high levels of trial and error in his quest to inform, entertain — and ultimately, he hopes, be paid by others for the privilege of listening to what he’s produced.

Although he’s not entirely sure how many people in total have tuned into his podcasts, Sands knows that Infotainment has been downloaded in Australia, Japan, Chile, the Netherlands, Germany and England, as well as the United States.

Using his personal collection of state-of-the-art equipment, Sands spends varying amounts of time to create each podcast, which feature sound effects and graphics, as well as generous helpings of Sands’ wry observations and wit.

“Randy has a keen sense of humor,” affirmed Lehman, whose ACT team that supports Sands and up to 50 other clients includes a chemical dependency counselor, therapist, R.N.s, mental health practitioners and a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

“All I ever hoped for was an FM-sounding voice,” quipped Sands. “I spent a lot of time listening to talk show hosts, and that seemed like a fun occupation.”

With a growing list of podcasts to his credit, Sands is hopeful his list of topics — consumer scams, current events, cultural observations, analysis of peculiar developments in the world and more — will find an ever-increasing audience.

“I’ve thought of offering coffee mugs or T-shirts to Infotainment patrons,” mused Sands, mentioning one means he’s brainstormed to spread the Infotainment word.

Making Infotainment profitable is a goal for which Sands, still a photographic hobbyist and a fan of all things “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” will keep striving, along with his ongoing effort to maintain his mental health.

“If anyone is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, find help,” urged Sands. “There are national helplines and local agencies, so get help before doing something stupid.”

To sample Randy Sands’ podcast “Infotainment” and become a patron, visit