The Piper Creek Optimist Club is a community club dedicated to raising money to serve Red Deer and area youth. We have approximately 35 members and raise between $80,000 and $100,000 annually. Since 1986 we have donated almost 1.3 Million dollars.
Optimist International (OI) is an outstanding social innovator passionate about optimism and the support of youth. Thirteen Thousand people join the club each year (The Optimist, 2011). Amid trials and tribulations, there is an ever increasing need for optimism and the support of our world’s future which are our youth. Throughout its 100 years of history, OI has not strayed from helping youth, evolving and innovating its service projects to best help youth who are not able to help themselves. Organizing groups of people from around the world and coordinating them, Optimists share a sense of conviction about promoting optimism and helping youth.
From a strategic plan perspective, OI’s mission statement states “By providing hope and positive vision, Optimists bring out the best in kids” (Optimist International, 2011). OI’s vision statement is “Optimist International will be recognized worldwide as the premier volunteer organization that values all children and helps them develop to their full potential” (Optimist International, 2011).
The history of OI goes back to 1911 when the first optimist club was created in Buffalo, New York. By 1919, there were 11 clubs and together they agreed to became the association of Optimist International. In 1922, the organization chose a few lines from author Christian D. Larson’s 1912 book “Your Forces and How to Use Them” and called it the “Optimist Creed” (Optimist International, 2011). The Optimist Creed is spoken at every club function and speaks to the things Optimist’s believe in. The words are easy to remember and are good words to live by.
Promise yourself …to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
Since the creed was adopted in 1922, many things have stayed the same but more things have changed. The most recognizable change is the size of the organization. As of December 15, 2010, Optimist International had 99,917 members and 3,375 clubs. As you can see, there have been a few years that the club membership has risen and also declined but all in all the organization has grown significantly.
The club’s growth has been mostly in the US and Canadian clubs, but there is also significant growth in 21 other countries around the world (Optimist International, 2011). Britain and Europe now have many clubs.
One interesting development happened in Hungary. Less than a year after the government legally permitted service clubs, 20 Optimist Clubs has been chartered. (Devine, 1999)
The core of what the organization does is service projects. In the beginning, the first Optimist Clubs started day camps and homes for delinquent youth and organized father–son weeks. (Optimist International, 2011). Since that time, things have grown. OI now completes 65,000 service projects each year. OI also spends $78,000,000 each year on communities. Most importantly, OI’s service projects and donations serve over six million young people each year.
Service projects happen at both a club level and an organizational Optimist International level. At an organizational level, the first major service project, which continues today, is the Oratorical Contest. The Oratorical Contest began in 1928. More than 2,000 clubs participate in this program each year. Winners of the Club-level contests receive medallions and most up to Zone contests. Zone contest winners receive plaques and move to Districts. Districts finalists are provided $2,500 scholarships (Optimist International, 2011).
Another major organizational service project is the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships. The Junior Golf Championships was created in 1978 (Optimists set to hold 22nd annual junior golf tourney, 2010). Five thousand children around the world compete in qualifying Zone and District-level golf tournaments. Seven hundred and fifty junior golf winners from the Zone and District tournaments are selected to go to Palm Springs and compete in “The Optimist”. This tournament has seen many youth golf legends including Tiger Woods who won the Optimist International Junior World Golf Championships in 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989, and 1990.
Another major service project is the OI Essay Contest. The OI Essay Contest was founded in 1983. This service project sees winners from the clubs (“Sardis student wins local Optimist essay contest”, 2011) advance to District contests to compete for a $2,500 college scholarship.
In 2001, Optimist International changed their focus and began the Childhood Cancer Campaign. This campaign “was created to provide awareness and support of children battling cancer and the challenges their families face” (Optimist International, 2011). The support for this service project resulted in a 2004 commitment of $1 million for research at John Hopkins. (Optimist International, 2011)
The most recent Optimist International service project is the Internet Safety program which was created in 2008. This program aims to keep children educated and safe from online predators. The OI Internet Safety program www.ikeepsafe.org is a partnership between sponsors, Governors, First Lady’s, and even First Lady Laura Bush who did a voice over for one of the videos. This website training solution has been successful and has played a part in providing internet safety training to youth.
For every organization service project, there are countless more done at the club level. Every year thousands of club services projects take place. There are far too many to list but a few innovative club service projects include Youth Athletic Appreciation Nights (Fritz, 2009), Christmas light displays for a Youth Centre/Scouts (Uxbridge Optimists show support to youth, 2011), and awards for youth for selfless actions and leadership (Optimism reigns supreme in Vanier, 2011). Other service projects include building playgrounds and skateboard parks (Littleton, 2003), sports league programs (Avrasin and Roberts, 2004), and investing in anti-steroid classroom curriculum (“Anti-steroid program needed in schools, 1993).
The main reason behind OI’s success is the fact that the organization is constantly evolving, growing and innovating. Part of this growth is due to the Personal Growth & Involvement (P.G.I.) Program. The P.G.I. program is a 10 level training program on involvement, leadership, and achievement. The program focuses on Prescence/Attendance, Activities/Programs, Growth/New Members, Knowledge of the Organization, Personal Growth/Self Development, and lastly Communication. These areas are designed to make you a better volunteer and promote personal growth in the organization.
In recent years, OI has implemented three innovations. The creation of the Junior Optimist Octagon International, the change in policy to permit women to become members, and the creation of an Optimist International web presence www.optimist.org are all great things that have happened in recent years.
In 1988, the need to build on membership and get youth involved with helping youth, resulted in the creation of the Junior Optimist Octagon International. This organization permits the youth to learn the fundamentals of Optimism. Over the years, this organization has grown to over 18,500 youth members. Junior Optimist Octagon clubs teach youth at a young age to volunteer and fundraise for their communities.
The most recent innovation is the creation of a web presence. The Optimist International website is an amazing tool used to recruit, increase collaboration and promote sharing of knowledge between clubs. This past year, a handful of clubs have entered into the future by developing club presences on social media technologies like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. The expansion of these popular technologies will build understanding and promote the benefits of the organization to potential new members/volunteers/supporters.
In summary, Optimist International is a successful organization which is a true social innovator. Bringing men, women, and youth together to promote optimism and youth is a great thing leading to significant benefits. In recognition of this, OI was named as one of George Bush’s “Points of Light” in 2001. (“Optimist Club Amount ‘Points of Light’, 2001). The membership, service projects, and fundraising power make OI a great organization to be a member of. This organization innovates and is a social entrepreneur and is making a difference
Anti-steroid program needed in schools. (1993). JOPERD: The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 64(9), 14. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Avrasin, M., & Roberts, R. (2004). Boise Brings Youth to Sports. Parks & Recreation, 39(6), 65-66. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.(1987, June 20). Women Join Optimist Club. New York Times. p. 5. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Devine, Larry. (1999, December 29). River cities: Currents of Optimists. Cambridge Reporter,p. 7A. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from Canadian Newsstand Torstar. (Document ID: 520078541).
Lori Littleton. (2003, June 18). Skateboard park faces more obstacles. Expositor, p. A6. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from Canadian Newsstand Core. (Document ID: 350880101).
National Crime Prevention Council. (2000, June). Crime prevention through social development. Retrieved August 26, 2002, from http://www.prevention.gc.ca/en/library/publications/fact_sheets/cpsd/F.Sheet-CPSD-Eng.final.pdf
Optimist Club Among ‘Points of Light.’. (2001). Chronicle of Philanthropy, 13(12), 12. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Optimist International. (2011, March). Optimist International. Retrieved March 28, 2011, from http://www.optimist.org/e/member/about5.cfm
Optimism reigns supreme in Vanier. (2011, February 3). East Ottawa Star,5. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from Canadian Newsstand Core. (Document ID: 2258696631).
Optimists set to hold 22nd annual junior golf tourney. (2010, April 22) The Brampton Guardian, Canadian Newsstand Torstar, ProQuest. Web. 23 Mar. 2011.
Sardis student wins local Optimist essay contest. (2011, March 8). Chilliwack Times,21. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from Canadian Newsstand Core. (Document ID: 2288813651).
Theresa Fritz. (2009, October 16). 13th annual Youth Athletic Appreciation Night set for Oct. 17. Arnprior EMC,AR.12. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from Canadian Newsstand Core. (Document ID: 1881621741).
Uxbridge Optimists show support to youth. (2011, February 8). Uxbridge Times – Journal,1. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from Canadian Newsstand Torstar. (Document ID: 2261434081).