In September of 1986, at the Collingwood Curling Club, the largest “Chartered Club” (with 72 members) in Optimist history was formed. That summer our founders from Barrie had worked very hard with local business leaders, factory workers, tradesmen and professionals to fashion a club that was devoted to the needs of the kids in the area, and optimism was the vehicle to make that happen.
As a club, we put little emphasis on fulfilling the programs of Optimist International except for those that were needed such as Bike Safety, Junior Golf and the HOBY Leadership Program (Hockey or Books Locally). Instead our new Club evaluated and then recognized the real needs of the youth in our community and responded with responses that meet the identified needs. These included:
· Musical Instrument Program: With virtually no music programs in the schools we started an “Instrumental Major Music Plan” which has become renowned throughout Canada. Our Club was able to leverage a combined value over $500,000 in musical instruments over the last 30 years distributed in most of the schools in our area.
· Summer sports activities were limited then in the community so we implemented the Optimist Youth Soccer - a program that grew to over 1,500 kids!
· Our Optimist Kids Fish Derby where each year we give out over 150 fishing rods and award prizes to each kid, photos and hot dogs. A great experience for the kids and their families.
· We even attempted to provide an option for youth housing, to supply a need to the homeless teens in the community.
· We have funded the creation of soccer fields and two parks, “Optimist Harbourview Park” and “Fisher Field Soccer Centre” and most recently helped with building the new “Skateboard Park” in Heritage Park.
What did it take to make these services happen? Money, or as we like to say in the club, FUN Raising! We started out with such ideas as, selling tickets on boats and cars then moved to hosting Bingo events and selling Christmas trees. Next, we created and ran our LOBSTERFEST – turning it into a “happening” event.
We sold Break open Tickets, ran our ever-popular Bed Race Championship and hosted Oktoberfest dances – all to finance our numerous youth projects.
More recently we have produced the Side Launch Challenge and our Rubber Duck Race – both fun and popular skill testing events.
Of course, “The Mother of Yard Sales” and our annual Golf Tournament remain our signature events.
Events and a purpose are required to make a service club work. It is working members having fun at the job, growing in leadership and seeing the results of their labour that make the club a vibrant organization. We invite you to join and help create our next years of history.
-Mr Chris Baines Collingwood Optimist President