In an attempt to profile the man who just stepped in as president of the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, I found myself learning more about the charity and its efforts to better the world.
Dallas native Charley Spradley graduated from the University of Texas. He and his wife, Anne, have two boys: Walter, 22, and Martin, 16. Oh, and Spradley is a serious fan of country music and The Who.
I only learned that last bit post-meeting, in casual conversation, because Spradley isn’t one to talk about himself. His modesty parallels the ideals of the club — something Spradley learned at a young age from his father, who was also a Salesmanship Club member.
The organization serves more than 7,000 kids and family members. Ninety-three percent of students who attend the Jonsson School graduate from high school.
The Salesmanship Club started in 1920, when a group of businessmen came together and formed a fellowship. They wanted to do something charitable, so they created a children’s camp for troubled boys based at Bachman Lake — “a charter camp, the very first of its kind in Texas,” Spradley says.
When the polio epidemic broke out in the ’40s, the organization was forced to move the camp into the woods in East Texas. Years later, a girls camp was created at a neighboring site.
The organization developed a learning approach to help troubled kids, which involved therapeutic services, and it worked. In 1997, the J. Erik Jonsson Community School was established for high-risk children ages 3 to fifth grade who come from highly impoverished areas of Dallas. If a child or family member needs therapy (with professional recommendations), that is also available through special services at the Oak Cliff site.
A few years after the school's inception, a new location for after-school programs, therapy, mental-health services and parenting classes opened up in Northwest Dallas. In 2011, it was named the Constantin Center.
Now the organization serves more than 7,000 kids and family members between the school and therapeutic centers at both locations. Ninety-three percent of students who attend the Jonsson School graduate from high school. (Greenhill and St. Mark's are included in the mix of high schools.)
In 1982, the club raised $850, 000, serving 250 kids. This last year the club raised more than $5 million, and now that money serves 7,500 children and adults.
The model of social and emotional learning has been replicated and modeled around the world. This year, the Salesmanship Club Youth and Family Centers invited professionals from across the globe to attend a symposium, to share their philosophy about how to better educate youth.
“As we grew, raising funds from the tournaments, we pressed on our own staff to innovate more,” Spradley says. “The science tells us that it’s more beneficial to work with both families and children — teaching the unit how to repair, cope and improve."
The staff — clinicians, therapists and social workers — are constantly searching for new techniques that will help the children learn in the most effective manner. The Salesmanship Club even partners with UT Southwestern, working with post-grads and current Ph.D. students to understand the importance of combining education with social emotional learning for children in need.
Spradley shared some staggering numbers: In 1981, the club raised $850, 000, serving 250 kids at $3,400 a client. This last year the club raised more than $5 million, and now that money serves 7,500 children and adults at about $750 per client.
Although the organization started as a philanthropy-focused fellowship club, it became known for the HP Byron Nelson. Now Spradley is trying to spread the word as the organization approaches 100 years. No other tournament in the PGA comes close to raising as much money: All told, the Byron Nelson has raised $127 million.
Salesmanship Club members are carefully chosen based on how much time they’ve already dedicated to charitable organizations. They are expected to raise significant funds, as every penny goes to all parts of the charity — the school, therapeutic services, parent education, treatment groups and the 110 people on staff.
Once a member, always a member. “It’s a lifetime commitment,” Spradley says. The men meet every Thursday (fulfilling a certain percentage), and they must be passionate about the organization. Most serve on committees, boards and volunteer with different events at the school, such as pumpkin carvings, readings, mentorship and graduation. Women are not excluded, as members’ wives and partners play an active role in supporting the cause, out of the goodness of their hearts.
In between owning and managing Spradley Legal Search, Spradley goes to the Oak Cliff campus a few times a week. And, of course, he never stops spreading the message of changing the odds and enabling people to better understand the real work behind the club.