Sandefer eager to help Boys & Girls Club of Central Wyoming youth succeed

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming currently has 10 programs spread across three counties. As staff and volunteers put the final touches on Saturday’s Reverse Raffle & Auction, the nonprofit relies heavily on its board of directors for direction, guidance and hands-on assistance.

When seeking board members, chief executive officer Ashley Bright says, “we look for individuals who are passionate, caring and visionary for community children and youth. We know when we have good to great board members, we have good to great professionals, good to great funding and good to great programs. It all begins with a good to great board of directors.”

The vice president of the BGCCW board is Casper native Ian Sandefer.

Sandefer, 38, graduated first in the history department at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and was accepted to and graduated from law school at the University of California-Berkeley, one of the top 10 law schools in the country. He is a partner in Fuller, Sandefer & Associates, attorneys at law — and he is a convicted felon.

The son of a lifelong truck driver and a waitress, Sandefer says he got into “a lot” of trouble when he was a kid.

“I was in every juvenile facility Casper has to offer,” he said, “multiple stays at the Youth Crisis Center, the R.L. Mills Home for Boys, you name it, I was there.”

It was all “juvenile-type stuff,” he says, until he was 17, when he was charged and convicted as an adult felon for aggravated assault.

“I was going to Kelly Walsh, but the fight was at Natrona. We fought with our fists and I broke this kid’s orbital bone (eye socket). So I was in the county jail and then did the felony program at what was then CAC (now the Casper Re-entry Center.)”

It was while doing a mundane thing that Sandefer had a change of heart.

“I worked at a car wash for a year while I was at CAC. It was pretty miserable — this is not exactly southern California — and I spent my days drying cars in the tunnel, and I thought, I’ve got to make a change.”

When he was allowed to return (he had been expelled from KW after his conviction), he went back to KW and graduated, then enrolled in and graduated from Casper College.

“I needed a credit and a half of electives with two weeks of school to go when I was expelled,” he said.

He told himself that he would do “the best job I can possibly do,” and succeeded in doing just that.

His probation officer had also attended Casper College, and they would compare grades they received in the same classes.

“She was always mad that I did better in a class than she had,” he laughed.

While at Casper College, he applied for a job at the old Boys & Girls Club on A Street.

“First, they let me work in the game room, then I picked kids up in their van, then I ran the gym. I worked there through most of college here in Casper,” he said.

Married with an infant by that time, he used every avenue he could — grants, loans and scholarships — and moved across the country with his family to Massachusetts.

After graduating first in his department, he returned to Casper and tried to figure out the next step. He was an AmericCorps VISTA at the BGCCW, this time on the administrative side, writing grants, working in program development and other administrative duties.

He took the law school entrance exam and was accepted to Cal-Berkeley, where he attended from 2004 to 2007.

Every step of the way, he had to declare that he was a felon, and although he received a restoration of civil rights from the governor several years ago, that’s something that he’ll need to do for the rest of his life.

After law school, he again felt the pull of his hometown and returned to Casper, where he has been a BGCCW board member for several years.

Since those A Street days, Sandefer says the BGCCW has undergone “a pretty remarkable transformation in the last 15 or 20 years. It’s always been a place for kids to interact with adults who really cared, but it has really increased its capacity to serve.”

Sandefer sees the club’s locations and outreach programs as a place for kids to build positive relationships— both with staff and other youth — in a safe environment.

“They can get whatever specialized help they need or do whatever program they want and be themselves and be safe,” he said. “It’s a place where kids go to keep from falling through the cracks.”

One of Sandefer’s favorite quotes is, “the road to virtue is paved with toil and sweat.”

He says he never took the easy way and got where he is today through hard work and luck.

As a board member and father of three (16, 9 and 7 months), he hopes to make that way a bit easier for the members of the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Casper Star Tribune Article