Young Life Alumni Awards

​Sam and Linda Bradshaw

2019 Service to Young Life Award
By Shannon Harrell

In John 13, Jesus declares, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Sam and Linda Bradshaw have lived lives marked by love and are known for their generosity and commitment to loving and serving those near and far so that they may hear the good news of Christ.

In 1979, Sam and Linda’s extensive service to Young Life began when their son, Kent, started attending Young Life as a sophomore in high school. The Bradshaws then joined the local committee in Houston. Since their first encounter with the mission, Sam and Linda have served in a variety of critical roles as adult guests, donors, local volunteers and banquet hosts. They’ve also had significant impact in Young Life International, the Young Life Foundation, Young Life Military–Club Beyond and Developing Global Leaders.

After retiring as the president of Triad Energy Corporation, Sam lives in Houston, Texas, where he and Linda still actively support the local Young Life ministry and advocate for multiethnic Young Life where there is less local giving.

Field Senior Vice President James Rockwell said, “Sam and Linda are my role models. Many years ago when I was asked to move to Houston, it was my lunch with Sam that turned my heart toward Texas. He and Linda had such a deep understanding of calling and leadership. The love and support the Bradshaws showed me and my family marked me. I believe I’m a ‘bolder’ leader because of their influence. And their investment in me and our regional vision allowed us to reach thousands of kids, ALL kinds of kids, for Jesus Christ.”

While their passion for local ministry is contagious, Sam and Linda have also had far-reaching impact through several branches of Young Life ministry internationally. This has led the Bradshaws to generously support regions worldwide and to fund several Developing Global Leaders (DGL) students. DGL offers educational funds, life-skills mentoring and Young Life ministry training for the leaders of tomorrow in over 30 countries around the world. Since 2016, the Bradshaws have supported 15 different DGL students.

The Bradshaws also have a heart for military families. Young Life’s Club Beyond provides ministry to middle school and high school students worldwide. Sam and Linda have also been champions for Military Family Camp at Trail West and faithfully supported scholarships for these families. In 2009, this passion for Young Life’s military ministry led to Sam joining the MCYM Board of Directors.

In the words of Executive Director of the Young Life Foundation Jeff Rudder, “Anyone who knows Sam and Linda knows they exude joy, love, commitment, faithfulness and generosity! I have personally been blessed by their desire to follow Christ and to serve Him through Young Life and the Young Life Foundation. The head count in heaven will be higher because of them.”

Verley and Pearlean Sangster​

2019 Distinguished Young Life Alumni Award
By Jonathan Schultz

In late 1960, Verley Sangster was a young businessman who had recently lost his tavern due to revenue issues. At a crossroads, Verley met Bob Biehl, a man from South Bend, Indiana, who saw potential in Verley and asked to train him in the insurance business and organizational leadership. Here Verley first encountered the mission of Young Life through a breakfast club led by Chuck Lahman.

Following this initial introduction, Verley began serving on the South Bend Young Life committee, one of the first organized committees in Young Life. In 1971, Chuck Raymond arranged for Verley and his wife, Pearlean, to be adult guests at Frontier Ranch, in Colorado. The Sangsters were blown away by what they witnessed at camp that week, and came away with a passion to see more urban kids experience what they had seen.

It was October of 1973 when Verley made the transition from volunteer to Young Life staff person, becoming the director of the Young Life Center on Chicago’s west side. This center provided many resources to the community, including legal and medical aid, and urban youth development work. The center ran four Young Life clubs, including two high school gatherings run by area director Jim Chesney; while Verley led a Thursday night club for high school kids and a Friday night club for middle school kids. Some might argue these were the forerunners of our present-day WyldLife programs.

Under Verley’s leadership, his assistant, Amy Mannier, and former Young Life kid and volunteer, Angela Reeves, started one of the very first clubs for teen mothers. Angela joined Young Life staff following that, while Verley became area director in late 1970.

Eight years later, Young Life President Bob Mitchell promoted Verley to the position of National Urban Training director, a role he served in from 1978 to 1989. In 1989, President Doug Burleigh appointed Verley as the vice president of U.S. Field Ministries.

“In this role Sangster oversaw the six field directors, the Ministry Resources director and the associate field director for women. Over the course of sixteen years, Sangster had come a long way from his first position as an area director in Central Chicago. Doug Burleigh said he sensed in Sangster, ‘A man deeply committed to a prayer ministry with this mission and one who draws from significant spiritual resources in his own personal life. I believe Verley is uniquely qualified to hold together and unite this diverse field team in the United States Leadership’” (Made for This: The Young Life Story, p. 104).

As Denny Rydberg took the helm as president of Young Life, Verley’s influence in the mission continued, even as his title was changed to director of Multicultural Ministries.

In 1994, 21 years after coming on Young Life staff, Verley left to become president for the Center for Urban Theological Studies (CUTS) in Philadelphia, which he held until retiring in 2004.

Verley Sangster is a great leader, whose legacy lives on in and through the mission. His pioneering courage and visionary insight served to shape the mission’s work with multicultural and urban youth, teenage mothers, middle school and high school kids, and significantly impacted the training and equipping of countless staff and volunteers. Verley Sangster has been a gift to many within and outside of the Young Life mission.

JD Gibbs​ ​

2019 Young Life Posthumous Alumni Achievement Award
By Jonathan Schultz

JD Gibbs moved to Northern Virginia in 1981, when his father (Joe) accepted the role of head coach for the Washington Redskins. It was during this season he was introduced to Young Life, often hosting club at his house. In the words of longtime friend, Moose Valliere, “Because of JD’s personality and charisma, the biggest clubs were often at JD’s house; in fact, the only reason I decided to visit Young Life was because it was going to be at JD’s house. If it was OK for JD to go to Young Life, then Young Life was OK for me! I trusted JD that much.”

In the same vein, Dave Alpern, lifelong friend and current president of Joe Gibb’s Racing, said, “Arguably the most popular kid in our high school, JD would show up in the cafeteria and randomly sit at different tables, usually with the less popular kids, with his signature smile and a ‘Hi, I’m JD.’ It made the kids who needed it most feel valued and important. I know because I was one of those kids.”

Upon college graduation, he moved to Charlotte and co-founded Joe Gibbs Racing with his father. In the midst of all of this, JD became a volunteer Young Life leader for a few years, until recruiting Moose to come and start a new Young Life area in Norman, North Carolina. JD was on committee in this area until the day he got too sick to continue serving.

Professionally, JD treated his business career much the same as he did the rest of his life: building others up and using his influence to point people to Jesus. As Joe Gibbs Racing grew from a start-up family business with barely a dozen employees, to a world-class championship sports organization with nearly 600, JD never changed. Everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing knew that an interaction with JD was going to include a laugh, probably a bear hug and a meaningful exchange about something significant to that person.

From overseeing a giving ministry that sends funds to over 75 organizations in over 50 countries, to mobilizing a team of in-house chaplains to do “contact work” inside of Joe Gibbs Racing, JD knew how to treat his business as his ministry. Throughout, Young Life remained dear to JD’s heart, as he chaired the local committee, hosted countless Young Life banquets and events at the team headquarters, and even turned the Joe Gibbs Racing Christmas party into a Young Life club!

Most importantly, JD knew his primary ministry was to his boys (Jackson, Miller, Jason and Taylor) and his wife; and he was exceptional with both. JD married Melissa, his middle school sweetheart, in 1993 and, according to Moose Valliere, “As a parent, JD was THERE for his kids and his wife. In the crazy world of pro sports when the job is the ‘end all, be all,’ JD always did his best to step away and be with his family.”

In 2014 JD started showing symptoms of a neurological problem; he had a degenerative brain disease that was incurable. JD passed away on January 11, 2019, at the age of 49, and his impact was clearly seen at his funeral. Thousands attended to pay their respects, from old friends, to the NASCAR family, to Redskins players and coaches. JD’s dream was to help Windy Gap and to bring Young Life to every kid in the Charlotte Metro area, focusing on hard-to-fund schools, YoungLives and Capernaum. In his memory, the JD Gibbs Legacy Foundation was born in January 2019. Since JD’s death over $1 million has been raised.