Unity Awards

Bill Sadlo Helps Youth Cope With Unprecedented Mental Health Challenges

“We go where the youth and families really need us.”

By Lauren Jackson January 9, 2023 Published in the January-February 2023 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Bill Sadlo

Bill Sadlo

Image: David Tejada

Bill Sadlo, the president and chief executive officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties, knows what kids need. Entering his 35th year with the organization, he has worked in roles that have taken him all over the nonprofit, from an assistant program director to his current position.

“I think you go into this work always wanting to be hands-on and be with the youth on a daily basis, and as you grow, you realize you can continue to make an impact from different seats on the bus,” Sadlo says.

Now, even as the driver of the bus, Sadlo is careful with his words, rarely using “I” and instead replacing it with “you” or “we,” because, for Sadlo, the organization’s mission cannot be achieved without his team, many of whom are Club alumni and grew up as members of the organization.

“You’re talking about an incredible group of people who care so much about the youth and their community,” he says. “I’ve never seen a more dynamic team than this.”

Boys & Girls Clubs are vital outposts for kids between the ages of 6 and 18, places they can go to after school and feel included and empowered to participate in programs that enhance skills they feel passionate about. Clubs are strategically placed in North Port, Venice, Newtown, Arcadia and on Fruitville Road, where you’ll find the largest facility, the Lee Wetherington Club.

“We go where the youth and families really need us,” Sadlo says. “And I would have to say the largest issue right now is the mental health of our young people. From social media to the pandemic and now Hurricane Ian, there have been major disruptions to their daily lives, and we’re seeing the repercussions play out in school, with their behavior, socializing with friends and in many other areas.”

To help alleviate those struggles, the clubs have implemented partnerships with local mental health organizations and even embedded social workers in the clubs to address members’ needs. And in an effort to capture the ever-elusive attention of teenagers, the organization has put together extensive programming to reach teen members that is simply called The Club. By offering unique opportunities focused on leadership development, volunteerism and community service, entrepreneurial education, vocational training, academic success and college and career readiness, the clubs and Sadlo have received national recognition, winning the inaugural Youth Megaphone Award given by Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which represents more than 4,300 Clubs across the country. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties were presented with the award last May.

“If you’re talking about serving the whole community, what better thing to be recognized for than giving your youth a voice?” Sadlo says. “To me, there is nothing better we can say about this organization than that we give these teens opportunities and access for their voices to be heard. That’s something I’m very proud of.”

While Sadlo has spearheaded these initiatives, he shies away from direct attention. “We have so many community partners and supporters that make all of this possible, who give so much to ensure that we can provide the impactful programs today to support the leaders of tomorrow,” he says. “It really takes a village, and we have some of the best people right here in Sarasota and DeSoto counties.”

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