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Jenny Gleason always remembers being outside as a kid and getting into every sport possible. It wasn’t until Jenny was 15 years old that she picked up a golf club for the first time. After her and a close friend decided to start the golf team at Clearwater High School, Jenny knew she found her passion. Jenny continued to play throughout her college years at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and credits her parents and coaches as the individuals most influencing to her career. Jenny turned pro after college in 2003 and is now a member of the LPGA and three-time winner on the Symetra Tour. When she’s not golfing, Jenny enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, being outdoors and playing all sports.
The Angela Stanford Foundation supports Texas children and young adults by providing college scholarships for students whose families have been affected by cancer and through partnerships with Lena Pope Home Inc. and First Tee of Fort Worth.
Jenny: Growing up in Florida I always seemed to be outside as a child. We were always running around playing a sport that involved a ball, stick, or net. I think I played every sport possible as a kid. As all my friends say I was a pretty late bloomer to the golf scene. I picked up my first golf club at the age of 15, a freshman at Clearwater High School. I had been playing basketball competitively starting in elementary school and all the way to high school. I remember hearing a PA announcement that the school wanted to start a girls golf team and if you were interested to attend a meeting. So one of my close friends and I went to the meeting and started the golf team. From the minute I stepped on the golf course I knew I had found my love. Now 16 years later I am still following my dream and love every minute of it. As all of my coaches have said I was a natural from the beginning. Don’t get me wrong there was a lot of hard work, time, frustration, and learning through my journey through high school and college to determine if I could do this for a living and achieve my goal of playing on the LPGA Tour. Being a finance major in college I’ve been a real numbers person I remember my nine hole average my freshman year in high school was 65 for nine holes and by my senior year I had it down to just about par 36. There are times now that I shoot 65 for all 18 holes.
MO: After having such an impressive career in golf, what inspired your decision to become the executive director of The Angela Stanford Foundation?
Jenny: Angela and I have been very good friends for years. I remember my rookie year on tour she was one of those veteran players that I could trust and go to if I needed help with anything. I will never forget when I got a text from her in December of 2010 saying “We need to talk about some stuff”. I honestly had no idea what was about to come out of her mouth. After a long conversation about golf, life, the future, and faith she offered me the position to be Executive Director of The Angela Stanford Foundation. WOW!!!!!! Seriously? Me? “You must have the wrong person,” I said. She went on to explain how all of her board members were 100% behind the decision and would love to have me come on board. The thoughts and feelings that I had are really hard to put into words. Honored and lucky are the 2 words that still ring in my head to this day. How often in my life am I going to get the opportunity to run a non-profit organization and help people who are in need? This situation might never come again to me. In January of 2011 I took the job and have not looked back since. The families, students and children that I have met through this whole process has been the most eye opening experience of my life to date. The Foundations focus is helping families who have been affected by cancer. In May we issued 8 college scholarships to students whose lives have been affected by cancer.
MO: What transferrable skills from being a pro golfer have been most useful in your role at The Angela Stanford Foundation?
Jenny: I can thank my father for the personality that I have today. Growing up I can remember him just always talking to people. Even if there was nobody to listen to him he would still be talking. Well..I guess somewhere along my childhood I picked up on that trait. I have always enjoyed meeting new people and talking to others. I think that the more people that you can meet in life the more fun and interesting it can be. I think another skill that has helped me in being the Executive Director is my dedication and strong competitiveness. If I am going to do something I am going to give it 100%, no matter if that is on the practice range, the golf course, or running a non-profit organization. I will never give up and will always strive for perfection. I have learned to set little goals with the Foundation and helped the organization grow in the Texas market
MO: Can you talk about the mission behind the foundation and what kind of resources you offer families in need?
Jenny: The mission of the Foundation is to help families who have been affected by cancer. We do this by offering college scholarships to Texas students who plan on going to a college or university in the state of Texas. You can learn more about the Foundation by going to www.angelastanfordfoundation.org Angela, our board members, and myself sat in a board meeting and had this dream and goal of issuing students scholarships and that dream came true this spring when we issued 8 college scholarships to local Dallas and Fort Worth students. These kids are absolutely amazing. They each had to submit an application, essay and reference letters. One of the hardest things I have ever done was read their essays that they wrote. The stories that these students told in a 2 page essay was enough to bring tears to your eyes. We have helped kids who have lost a parent to cancer, have cancer themselves, or have an immediate family member battling cancer currently.
MO: What’s the biggest risk that you’ve ever taken and how did it turn out?
Jenny: Well, in the 31 years that I’ve been on this earth I have done some pretty crazy things. At times I’ve probably done a few things I shouldn’t have done :) But to date the biggest risk I have taken is probably turning professional after I finished college. I can honestly say I didn’t know what I was getting into. And 9 years later here I sit an LPGA member and 3 time winner on the Symetra Tour. I would not take back one minute of it. It’s been quite the learning experience the first part of my professional career. But now as I fall into my “Veteran” years I am very comfortable with where I am. Golf has brought so many great people and places into my life. Without all of the support from my parents and sponsors over the years I wouldn’t be where I am today.
MO: Are there any specific success stories from working with The Angela Stanford Foundation that you’d like to share with our readers?
Jenny: A few months ago Angela and I both had the opportunity to play golf with one of our scholarship recipients. It was a hot July morning in Fort Worth, Texas that I will never forget. Even though the round was only 9 holes it made a lasting impression on me. This young lady had just graduated from high school the month before all while her senior year she was battling Hodgkins Lymphoma. She lettered in golf while attending high school, was in the choir, and was president of the LPGA Girls Golf Club chapter of Dallas. To see the excitement in her eyes as we stood on the first tee was priceless. I’m not sure if she knew it, but she was as much an inspiration to Angela and me, as we were to her. It has helped me realize even more that one bad round of golf is not the end of the world.
MO: I know that annual events are the driving funding source for your organization. Can you talk about your next event, the process of putting it together and what you hope to achieve?
Jenny: The Foundation put on two big fundraising events this year. One in the spring and we just had our 7th annual “Let Your Light Shine” golf tournament over the Labor Day weekend. Our event in the spring was a first annual dinner and concert for 200 people in Fort Worth. We were lucky enough to bring in 3 amazing country music artist. Tracy Lawrence, Patrick Davis and Edens Edge came in for “A Night with the Stars” this past May. It was a special event that everyone enjoyed. It was also the first time that the Foundation got to meet our scholarship recipients for the first time. Through all the support and generous donations we raised over $45,000 that night to go into our scholarship fund.
The golf tournament that the Foundation puts on is very unique in the fact that we play nine holes during the day and then nine holes at night. We have 18 LPGA Professionals come in and each play with a group for the event. I have been apart of the golf tournament since it started back in 2006. However, my role has changed a little bit as I organize and put on the event now. It is a lot of planning and work the few months prior to the event but all well worth every minute when you see how much we raise to help these kids and families. The event this year went great and we raised over $80,000 for the Foundation. At times I’m not sure how I do both my jobs. Sometimes I wish I had a few more hours in a day. I have learned it’s all about the big picture in life and I thank Angela all the time for the opportunity to be a part of her Foundation and make a difference in people’s lives.