Board member, Tom Spreacker, is a three-time JMF Chili Cook-Off champ; a Specialist Account Executive at Dell Technologies; and a lover of bee-keeping, boating, and the Joseph Maley Foundation. Tom shares a board seat with his wife, Lisa (read Lisa’s blog here), and has long supported JMF’s mission and programs. Keep reading to learn how Tom has witnessed JMF’s impact in action, over and over again.

Why did you join JMF’s Board of Directors? And how long have you been a board member?

After spending several years traveling a great deal on business I was forced to pull back from many of my volunteer activities. When my work travel was reduced I started to consider my options to re-engage in service opportunities. I have known about JMF for many years and my son Lance was involved in Joseph Maley Friends as a puppeteer, and also served as a Junior Board member. I have always had a love of helping those with different abilities and JMF was a perfect way for me to give back. I have been on the board for the past three years, and have enjoyed the experience a great deal.

What does the mission “serving children of all abilities” mean to you?

When I think of “serving children of ALL abilities” I think of serving beyond just the individual child. Truly serving must include the entire community surrounding the child.  JMF’s support of the child extends to family, friends, educators, and the general public. This is evident when you look at JMF’s wide variety of programs.

JMF runs on the idea of “family-first”, is your family also involved in JMF? If so, have you seen JMF have an impact on your family?

Our family has known the Maley family even before the establishment of the Joseph Maley Foundation in 2008. Our children attended St. Monica Catholic School, where the disABILITY Awareness program started. The program had a positive impact on our children’s education. When my son Lance started his freshman year at Indiana University he was able to continue spreading the lessons provided by JMF when he joined a group that works with young adults with disabilities. My wife Lisa and I now share a seat on the board.

You’ve been the JMF Chili Cook-Off champ a number of times. Can you speak to your expertise in the game of chili, and why you think others should attend or compete in this event?

I have always enjoyed making and eating chili and over the past several years I have started smoking meats. The past two championships combined my smoked meat and my chili.  My all-time favorite chili used smoked brisket meat. I felt like I had an unfair advantage using brisket that had been smoked low and slow for 15 hours. The competition that our Junior Board puts in every year makes this a great family event with some friendly smack talk between the competing Board and Junior Board teams. The creativity in the different chili recipes is amazing. I enjoy taking part every year!

What do you want others to know about JMF?

Every child has unique and special gifts to offer the world. JMF helps them find that gift while educating those around them to help support them. JMF is making a difference.

This is our year of stories – what’s your favorite JMF story?

Several years ago I was at Costco with my son Lance. Lance was approached by a young girl about his age who was with her dad. She was VERY excited to show him something. She reached out and took Lance’s hand to lead him to the couch that she really liked. The little girl’s dad gave a look of concern but before we knew it Lance was quickly walking away holding the girl’s hand down the aisle of Costco as the two dads followed along. When we caught up to them the girl and Lance were sitting on a couch as she was telling him how much she loved her living room. The girls dad still had a bit of a concerned look on his face as I am sure that his beautiful daughter had previously experienced a negative response to her joy of life. He told her that they needed to move along but she wanted to keep talking to her new friend and Lance was fully engaged in the conversation. I looked at the dad with a smile and the look of concern was gone and had been replaced by his own smile. A smile that said he was grateful that his daughter was not going to have a bad experience today. Not at this Costco, and not with the new friend she made in Lance. Lance’s experience with JMF over the years taught him how to find the gift of every person. It was a blessing to see the work of JMF in action that day.