For Stacy Hanley, the first woman to serve on the executive committee of the NYO board, this Mother’s Day will be filled with mixed emotions. But more on that, later. First, you need to meet Stacy: Wife, Mom, attorney, 10-year NYO volunteer and a loving daughter. Although it’s been two years since her oldest, Colin, played Bronco baseball, it takes Stacy 30 minutes to make her way past the Jane Wilkins Field, where Bronco games are played, after she leaves an NYO meeting in the nearby Dowis building.
‘I haven’t been at the field in two years,’ Stacy says. ‘But I knew two-thirds of the people there.’ Friendship is what makes NYO special for her. In response to a question about how NYO could improve, Stacy answers: ‘I’m not sure we need to make it better. Maybe a tweak, here or there. But it’s the greatest volunteer organization, and it’s remarkable that we pull all of this off with volunteers.’ And friendship with those volunteers is at the core of NYO. ‘For me, it’s a way to feel connected and to feel) purposeful. I like being connected to people.’ Mothers like Stacy are the unsung heroes of NYO, which is why we have saluted Jane Wilkins, Pam Miller and Paige Fielden on other Mother’s Days.
All three of Stacy’s and Joe’s kids have grown up at NYO. Colin, 14, played baseball, basketball and football. Stacy was a team Mom when Colin was five, and she led the football auxiliary for four years, where she served as commissioner John Baker’s ‘counterpart,’ according to former NYO executive director Jane Wilkins. Miles, 12, played football and baseball. Liza, 8, is a basketball player who also plays Top-Hat soccer. Liza has also cheered at NYO, and Stacy, a former cheerleader at Lovett, coached that team, too. Girls fastpitch is the only NYO program a Hanley child has not touched, and Stacy sounds apologetic for that, fretting that fastpitch get the recognition it deserves.
Given the importance of women to NYO, Stacy doesn’t make a big deal of being ‘the first woman’ on the board’s executive committee. Rather, she prefers to talk about ‘how great NYO is when you see behind the scenes.’
She recalls the phone call from Jane Wilkins, inquiring about her interest in serving on the executive committee. ‘That sounds great,’ Stacy remembers saying, ‘but I don’t have time.’ Then, Jane said, ‘Actually, we’re tapping you.’ Stacy accepted.
Jane Wilkins is effusive in her praise of Stacy. ‘She was Miss Everything at Lovett — a basketball player, a cheerleader, ‘ Jane says. But it’s Jane’s regard for Stacy’s no-nonsense approach that comes through loudest. ‘She comes to grips with things pretty quickly. She’s one of those ‘I’m just gonna get the job done’ people.’ Tony Watkins, who succeeded Jane as NYO executive director, describes Stacy as a ‘mentor to me. She tells me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. She’s also an amazing ambassador for NYO.’
Perhaps it’s her background as an athlete (she played basketball at Washington & Lee, her alma mater, for three years) or her years as an attorney (she graduated from the University of Georgia Law School and practices commercial real-estate law) that provide the insight and knowledge to help guide a youth recreational program that serves 5,000 athletes a year.
But Stacy, like so many others, returns to the notion that NYO’s greatest strength is its families. She knows NYO is a place where parents, as well as children, can grow. She laughs about the parents who are convinced their first-born is sport’s next superstar. ‘NYO has a way of teaching you how to get realistic,’ she says. ‘It takes you from the grandiose to the humble .’
It’s that feeling of family that makes this Mother’s Day bittersweet for Stacy. For Sunday, May 14, marks the second anniversary of the death of her Dad, Wilmont Williams, a 68-year-old real estate developer who died of a heart attack. The day before her father died, Stacy recalls, he attended his grandson Colin’s final Bronco league game at NYO. Wilmont Williams made all his grandkids’ games. Stacy unknowingly said her final goodbye to her father in the NYO parking lot after that game.
For Stacy Williams Hanley, NYO is the place that allows you to ‘be there for the regular events of your kids’ lives.’
(Jay Smith, who writes Dugout Doings, is pleased to report that Jane Wilkins, Miss Jane, is doing well and misses her NYO family. Give her a call this Mother’s Day!)