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Optimist International is an international service club organization with almost 3,000 clubs and over 80,000 members in more than 20 countries. The international headquarters is located in St. Louis, Missouri, United States. Optimist International is also the sponsor of Junior Optimist International, designed for elementary school through high school aged youth.
Optimist International's motto is "Friend of Youth" and the organization also uses the branding statement "Bringing Out the Best in Youth, in our Communities, and in Ourselves."
Optimist International is made up of autonomous Optimist Clubs that do work in their communities. Each club raises its own funds and chooses its own service projects to improve the lives of children. Examples of typical projects include sponsoring youth athletic leagues, holding essay and oratorical contests for scholarships, and as supporting local schools.
The Optimist Creed
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.
The international organization was founded at a convention in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1919, uniting various local and regional clubs, the first of which was founded in Buffalo, New York, in 1911. At the convention, the first official charter of the international organization was awarded to the club in Downtown Indianapolis, Indiana which was founded in 1916.
The year 2000 was a turning point in the organization’s history. Following the International Convention in Reno, Nevada, the inaugural Optimist International Junior Bowling Championships (OIJBC) took place there. Junior bowlers battled for the right to be called “Optimist Champion.”
In July 2001, Optimists found themselves seated in the White House, pledging to support U.S. President George W. Bush's goal to mentor one million children. Optimist International President Bob Garner called the meeting "yet another sterling example of 'Optimists Bringing Out the Best in Kids.'"
Also in 2001, Optimist International introduced the Childhood Cancer Campaign to provide awareness and support of children battling cancer and the challenges their families face. In 2004, the organization made a $1 million commitment to Johns Hopkins to underwrite a research focus.
Optimist International signed up the first Friend of Optimists in 2005. This class of membership allows individuals to show their support of the organization’s mission if they are unable to commit as a traditional club member.
Also in 2005, the Optimist Junior Golf Program expanded to include the Optimist International Tournament of Champions for top-performing junior golfers aged 14 to 18. On October 1, 2006, the first female international president in Optimist history, Ronnie Dunn, took office for the standard one-year term. In October 2007, Theo Golding of Jamaica became the first international president from outside of Canada or the United States.
With children being introduced to the internet at earlier and earlier ages, the organization began an Internet Safety program in 2008 to keep children educated and safe from online predators.
There are currently over 80,000 individual members who belong to almost 3,000 autonomous Clubs in 20 countries. Optimists conduct 65,000 service projects each year, serving six million young people. Optimists also spend $78 million on their communities annually.
Optimist International sets out statements of mission, vision and purpose.These summarise its goals to aid and encourage youth development.
In 1922, the Optimist Creed was adopted as the official creed of the organization. The Optimist Creed was developed by Christian D. Larson.It details a number of pledges to which members attempt to adhere.
Optimist Day is celebrated throughout the world annually on the First Thursday of February by Members of Optimist International.
Early in 2013, Sylvain Lévesque, a member of the National Assembly of Quebec and of the Optimist Club of Lorretteville, introduced the resolution to recognize “Optimist Day”in Quebec. Later that year at Optimist International Convention, delegates in Cincinnati passed a resolution adopting the first Thursday of every February as “Optimist Day.” The date corresponded with Optimist Day in Quebec. At the time, Lévesque was a member of the Optimist Club of Duberger and was asked by fellow Optimist Michel Lamothe to consider introducing the resolution. Lévesque agreed, and the resolution unanimously passed.
When asked why the first Thursday in February was selected, Lévesque said that “it was because we normally start our work at the National Assembly in the 1st week of February and we could pass the resolution at that moment.”
Regardless of the reason, Optimists throughout the world are thankful to him for taking the initiative to present the resolution, and they continue to celebrate Optimist Day on the first Thursday of February each year.
Members of Optimist International will celebrate Optimist Day to promote their efforts in helping and recognizing the people that make a difference in their communities. They can do this by wearing apparel or hosting events to celebrate the annual day.
However, non-members can celebrate Optimist Day by volunteering in the community, teaming up with their local optimist club, or spreading optimistic messages to friends and loved ones on Optimist Day.
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