Most Impactful board member

Tom Sadowski knows all about second chances. In early 1999, after a long and successful career in the accounting field, including serving as president of his national professional association, he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. Just one week later, Sadowski was in surgery to remove it. He shares about his brain surgery, he says, because it’s where a big part of his story begins, including his life motto: It’s not about you.

“I’ve always felt like I’ve had a guardian angel, even through the bad things that had a good outcome,” Sadowksi says. “When I came back to Jefferson City after being in Columbia, I wanted to be involved [with important things] again, such as the fund allocation process with United Way.”

Sitting on that budget panel, Sadowski would learn more about the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City, which is a United Way agency, and would join the Boys & Girls Club board a short while later. At the time, the organization had seen four executive directors in four short years; he wanted to help with his financial skills, including writing policies and procedures that could add stability. The board’s first task was finding a new executive director and, hopefully, one with staying power in this community. When they hired Stephanie Johnson as the new executive director, Sadowski had some words for her.

“One day at a time. You have to prioritize and develop organizational capacity. Sometimes people work out and sometimes they grow,” Sadowksi recounts. “Stephanie has grown in putting the right people in the right places over the years. She has a passion for the youth in this community, and she’s made a difference.”

As a board member, Sadowski has continued to focus on financials, but he’s also been pivotal in the larger vision of the Boys & Girls Club, including giving kids positive experiences. It’s a role he feels is served by staff, board members, volunteers, and partners all working together. He notes that we must recognize that kids will have different types of futures, and our role is to help them find their roadmap.

“Not every child is geared toward college, but there are so many jobs through technical skills. It’s looking at those opportunities that youth in Jefferson City are missing and need to have in this community,” he notes.

“By doing what I’m doing, I’m making it better for youth in our community. There is nothing better than that.”

Over the past few years, Sadowski has had many great moments and successes as a board member, but the one he remembers most is a small yet meaningful moment for one child at the Boys & Girls Club.

“The story I remember most is about a kid that came to Stephanie and missed the school bus because his sister forgot to wake him,” Sadowski shares. “Stephanie bought him an alarm clock. It’s the little things that make all the difference in the world.”

Since his brain tumor, Sadowski’s been focused on the important things, including making a difference in people’s lives. In addition to his rewarding board work, he serves as a resource for those diagnosed with a brain tumor. He answers questions and listens. He’s also able to support them through the process like his wife supported him by going to all his appointments and being an advocate. None of it is easy; all of it is hard.

“Not everyone survives this or are the same person they were before the brain tumor, which can be hard,” he says.

It is this wisdom and second chance at life that gives Sadowski a unique and beautiful perspective, including being intentional on how he wants to serve and spend his time. Kids in this community are still the highest priority for him.

“What I do now far exceeds those professional experiences because, by doing what I’m doing, I’m making it better for youth in our community. There is nothing better than that,” says Sadowski with a smile. “All you can ask is to try to make things better.”