Tommy Brannock loves competition.
From coaching lacrosse to helping homebuyers to collecting cash for Alzheimer’s and autism organizations, Brannock pursues his interests with a passion, and many would say Charlottesville is the better for it.
“I do like to win,” Brannock said in his laid-back Virginia drawl. “There’s nothing wrong with winning.”
Brannock, 54, a successful real estate broker, first realized his passion for competing while playing football and lacrosse at St. Anne’s-Belfield School.
Brannock now referees collegiate lacrosse, including stints calling several NCAA playoff games. “Coach Tommy” has coached high school girls and children as young as 4.
Yet when doctors diagnosed his mother as having Alzheimer’s when she was 65, his drive to win extended from the field to philanthropy.
Brannock, who with his father and siblings formed “Team Brannock” in 1990, used competition among each other to drive donations for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Memory Walk.
“It became a family thing for us,” he said. “My brother and I would engage in some trash talking.”
Today, the Memory Walk in Charlottesville has grown into a top fundraising event for the association. Team Brannock grossed an estimated $250,000 over the years for the event.
Brannock, who has helped chair the committee for the Memory Walk several times, was the top individual earner for 10 of the last 13 years.
“Tommy has been absolutely instrumental to the Alzheimer’s Association,” said Brett Spitale, vice president of development at the nonprofit.
Despite a difficult time, particularly leading up to his mother’s death in 1994, Brannock and his family focused on their goal. In 1996, Brannock promised himself he would become the lead fundraiser for the Memory Walk.
“The incredible thing about it was he always did things with a smile and you knew personally how difficult things were for him,” Spitale said.
Like many who know Brannock, Spitale noted his penchant for working with people, his infectious sense of humor and his work ethic.
“It has always impressed me how much he takes on and how much he cares about this community,” Spitale said. “He never says no to me.”
Above all, Brannock uses his competitive streak for the betterment of the community.
“He motivates other people in his competition,” Spitale said.
Kate Lambert is director of development and communications for the Virginia Institute of Autism. She has known Brannock for six years through his involvement with the organization, which provides a permanent school for children with autism and support services for families.
Brannock is a former president and vice president and is a current board member of VIA, even though his family has not been touched personally by autism.
“There’s no real reason for him to be involved besides him having a big heart,” Lambert said. “Tommy is one of the nicest persons I’ve ever known.”
His most recent accomplishment: finding a new location for a larger VIA school off Rugby Road and helping spearhead the capital campaign, which has raised roughly $2 million.
Again, he used competition as motivation.
“Before he took on our 5k race, we raised less than $5,000 with 100 runners,” Lambert said.
Brannock engaged the tight-knit lacrosse community and participation is close to 700 runners and $55,000 raised each year now.
In a town built for runners, it has become one of top 10 foot races in Charlottesville, Lambert said.
“He wants whatever he’s involved in to be the best and loves the thrill of competition,” she said. “When he commits to something, he commits to it for the long haul.”
Even with the time he dedicates to autism and Alzheimer’s, Brannock still finds other ways to make Charlottesville a better place.
While he doesn’t help organize the event any longer, he still personally delivers Christmas trees to the doorsteps of families supporting tuition scholarships to St. Anne’s-Belfield.
And he carves out time to coach young children at lacrosse, fostering a healthy competitive spirit in many of them.
“I have three rules: No talking during [coaching], not hitting with your sticks and no chewing on grass or dirt,” Coach Tommy said. “We don’t want to win at all costs, and we should do it the right way, but you should do the best you are capable of doing.”