“There are two phones, whose call do you pick up first–the donor or the kids? The answer is always the kids.” This is something Bill Sadlo heard 35 years ago at a training conference for Boys & Girls Clubs and he carries it with him to this day.

Sadlo, a Sarasota resident since age six when his family relocated from Long Island, NY, originally planned to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and older sister and become a teacher after graduating from college. Working for a nonprofit had never occurred to him but luckily for Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties, that’s where he ended up back in 1987 and remains today. His affiliation with the club, however, goes back even further to the time he was a boy and his parents enrolled him at the Fruitville Boys Club (now the Lee Wetherington Boys & Girls Club) so that he would have a safe place to be after school and during the summer while they were at work.

“Sarasota was very different from Long Island but the Club introduced me to kids from all different backgrounds and helped me to forge connections with adult role models.” Sadlo recalls. “The Club was also where I learned to wrestle which later earned me an athletic scholarship to Appalachian State University.” 

While he was very familiar with the Club as a boy and teen, Sadlo’s professional journey with the organization officially began in 1987 when he received a call from a high school friend asking if he would help coach wrestling there. That call ended up changing his entire career trajectory. He immediately started as a counselor and wrestling coach and returned every summer break from college. When he eventually transferred out of Appalachian State to the University of South Florida, he volunteered at the Club year-round. At first, it was a rocky start as in 1988, the Club was facing difficulties and was about to close its doors. Thankfully, Executive Director, Mack Reid, came on in 1989 and turned the organization around. He also became an important mentor to Sadlo and eventually hired him for his first full-time job after he graduated college in 1992. With a degree in secondary education, Sadlo was asked to be an assistant program director. He continued to move up in the ranks of the organization before becoming president and CEO in 2011 when Reid retired. 

“For me, having a safe place to go as a kid and now being able to provide that same safe space for today’s youth is what is most important to me,” shares Sadlo. “Going to where youth needs us the most and having a positive impact on their futures is what inspired me then, and what continues to inspire me today.”

For over 50 years, Boys & Girls Club has played an integral role in the lives of local youth by providing daily programs and services. Their core mission is to enable all young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. The vision is to provide a world-class Club experience that assures success is within reach of every young person who walks through the doors, with all members on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship and living a healthy lifestyle.

A success story that Sadlo is proud to share involves an opportunity that came about a few years ago in DeSoto County. At the time, the area had no youth development programs so his group teamed up with local citizens to do something about that. In 2018, they opened their sixth facility out of the former Smith-Brown schoolhouse in Arcadia and began providing local children, ages 6 to 18, with year-round programming to help them excel in school, become leaders and adopt healthy habits. Prior to officially opening this site as the Louis and Gloria Flanzer Boys & Girls Club, Sadlo and his team held the first enrollment event in July 2018 and were at capacity in less than two hours. In 2019, the City of Arcadia transferred the lease of the Smith-Brown Recreation Center that sits adjacent to the site. With lead support from the Louis and Gloria Flanzer Philanthropic Trust, they transformed the structure into a multi-purpose gymnasium for youth with designated space for physical activities, project-based learning and enrichment programs that further foster their personal development. They are also adding another 10,000 square feet to the facility for additional youth development programs and expect construction to be completed sometime later this summer. 

“The community of Arcadia needed this important resource. The expansion of this Club will give parents peace of mind knowing their kids are safe, that they will be in an environment that helps them build important life skills, that they will get help with their studies and be exposed to the many opportunities the Club has to offer,” says Sadlo. Words of wisdom that Sadlo likes to share with youth program leaders often: “Use your voice for good. We have a responsibility to make the community a better place. You are our future leaders so speak up, your voice has power.”  SRQ  Bill Sadlo was honored as one of SRQ Magazine’s good heroes in March 2023.