December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas from Experience Optimism

Christmas day brings joy to many; however, as optimists, we must remember to wish, share and experience the blessings of the day throughout the year.

From Experience Optimism, may your celebration continue and inspire you and yours to hope for all that is good in the world to be found and enjoyed by all.

December 24, 2015

Relationships matter long past the holiday season

It's not really a Christmas story, but I thought it was something we might want to think about at this time of year.

As we gather together with friends and family to celebrate the season, it's important that we know that we can trust on these people not only at the holidays, but all through the year.

Relationships matter. As recorded by the longest behavioral study in history, octagenarians with positive, trusting relationships were found to be the happiest. Watch the video to learn more.


December 23, 2015

Students earn points to buy gifts for others

christmas gifts points optimist clubIt's Christmastime around the world and for Optimist Clubs that means Christmas Tree salesBreakfast with Santa and Shop with a Cop activitities, among many more traditional and non-traditional projects to help bring joy to the lives of children. Well here's a project that teaches discipline while bringing meaning to the season.

On December 21, 2015 at Horace Mann Elementary School in Sioux City, South Dakota, the students went on a shopping spree for Christmas gifts. The twist? They purchased the gifts with points they had earned in class during the semester. According to teacher Jaci Mowinkel, the points are given for completing homework, following directions, replacing their books when finished and other tasks that are often hard especially for students with behavioral issues.

Now of course there is another twist to this Christmas story. Normally, the students earn points as an award for themselves, but this time, they used the points to procure Christmas presents for others. Now that's the meaning of the season.

The Optimist Club of Sioux City was there to help wrap the gifts. Members help purchase the merchandise carried in the store throughout the year.

Please click here to enjoy the video of the story at KDLT News Today. 

November 27, 2015

The world needs more optimists

experience optimism There are a lot of struggles and stressors in the world today. Even during a time of orchestrated happiness - the holiday season - we manage to take the joy and add a challenge to it, starting with today, known around the world as Black Friday.

The origins of the term Black Friday are debatable, but as a small business owner, I've always believed it to be the day that businesses go from red to black on their accounting ledgers. I know that the weekend following Thanksgiving, as well as the week following Christmas, would always make the difference for my consumer electronics and major appliance store.

But it is that kind of shopping expectation that makes our lives commercial rather than traditional and in fact, changes our traditions to mean something different than our grandparents and others who have come before us. The current culture is a shopping-frenzied culture.

In an effort to stave off the frenzy, I suggest something different. Instead of buying your way into your loved ones hearts, this year, give your time to a worthy cause. #Shareoptimism with those around you by telling positive stories and elevating spirits instead of depleting wallets. When you gather around the Christmas tree, enjoy one another's company, wisdom and wit.

The world needs more #optimists. #Optimists are individuals who share hope and a positive vision. They think only of the best, work only for the best and expect only the best and the crazy thing is, with such an attitude, they achieve only the best. Yes, the world needs more #optimists. Why not start with you?

November 21, 2015

Bowling for turkeys

According to an article in the Courier Journal, Clarksville, Indiana, each year the Optimist Club buys turkeys for the community. That's not unusual; many Optimist Clubs buy turkeys at this time of year to distribute through various outlets like food pantries and kitchens, senior centers and schools, among other locations.

But the turkeys bought in Clarksville were headed to a less likey recipient: the Parks Department.

Guess what they were bound for? Turkey Bowling!

That's right, each year the Optimist Club buys the turkeys that are a centerpiece for the Gobbler Games, a day-long party filled with child-friendly (5 to 12 years of age) activities. In addition to throwing the turkeys towards the pins in turkey bowling, the kiddos passed mini-marshmallows on plastic spoons and carried balloons clenched between their knees in an effort to rack up points enough to win a large turkey for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Now that sounds like a fun day of optimism with the collaboration of the Clarksville Parks Department, the Clarksville Middle School and the Clarksville Optimist Club.

Photo credit: Jenna Esarey, courtesy of the Optimist Club

November 14, 2015

#ShareOptimism with #FacesofOptimism

Optimist Creed Linda Vaught Disney

If you are like me, you find that different lines of the Optimist Creed inspire you at different times.

For keeping an open mind, I like "To think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best." There is a tendancy to interpret words and actions differently, expecially across cultural lines. For excellent communication to happen, we have to keep an open mind and be ready to understand others meanings.

For overcoming challenges, I like "To press on to the greater achievements of the future." There will always be roadblocks in our lives, and it is important that they not stop us from achieving our final destination or calling. We must persevere.

For keeping a positive tone, I like "To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person that you meet." Growing up, I would frequent a local restaurant with my parents. The clientele was older than them and much older than me. The talk would circle around those who were in the hospital or who had gotten bad news, be it a divorce or  job displacement, among other things. I would tell myself that positive words were so much nicer to hear.

I think, however, there is something overwhelmingly special about "To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile." You see, when you act out the emotion, you begin to feel the emotion and smiles, being the contagious reflexes that they are, spread to others and all of those smiles make the world a more pleasant place to live.

Optimist International is encouraging others to share their favorite line of the Optimist Creed through a program called #FacesofOptimism. If you want to #shareoptimism, post your professional head shot with the hashtag #FacesofOptimism on your social media channels. I look forward to learning your favorite line of the Optimist Creed!

November 9, 2015

What's a Jammie Jog?

Jammie Jog Iowa State Optimist Club
File this under too cute not to share.

The new Optimist Club at Iowa State University held its first fundraiser on November 7, 2015. For a $10 entry fee, students were encouraged to participate in the Jammie Jog: a 1-mile run around campus and all money raised was earmarked for ChildServe of Ames.

According to founding club member Christina Dittmer, the club hopes to "create opportunities for today's less privileged youth."

The fundraiser-jog came about after brainstorming throughout the spring and summer. For the entry fee, the club awarded t-shirts to the top 100 runners and generated a great deal of enthusiasm for their cause.

Wouldn't it be great to see Jammie Jogs on college campuses all around North America raising awareness for Optimist Clubs?

Photo: Max Goldberg/Iowa State Daily

November 8, 2015

An apple today

Sometimes the little gestures are the most meaningful. Take, for example, the note of appreciation given to Central High School, Athens, TN by the local Optimist Club. As a way of saying thanks, member Rob Preston placed an apple in each teacher's mailbox.

A little trite? Perhaps, but cute and healthy, too, and a way of saying we're thinking about you today and want you to thank you for all that you do.

optimist athens club apples

Good job, Optimists! Take a look at its Facebook page to see some of the other thoughtful gestures of the Athens Optimist Club.

November 1, 2015

Recite the Optimist Creed

Members of the California South District - Optimist International were happy to participate in the video demonstration that I presented recently. The topic was the Optimist Creed and perhaps the best way to describe the creed is to recite it and let others feel what it is all about themselves.


Zone 4 Cal South District recites the Optimist Creed. It's part of the social media exercise at the first quarterly.
Posted by Linda Vaught on Saturday, October 31, 2015

October 21, 2015

Technology and optimism

As part of my duties as Optimist International Vice President for the West Coast Region, I am also happily sharing tips for better communication via new media tools. My first opportunity was at the Arizona District - Optimist International 1st Quarter Meeting, October 17, 2015. Governor Brian Goldstien was especially interested in video and that led to a 20-minute hands-on video production segment in addition to the presentation on communications. We'll allow more time the next time around!

As you can see, I couldn't resist a nod to "Back to the Future." Here's my presentation.

October 15, 2015

Leadership and involvement across generations

It is that time of year when Optimist Clubs install new officers for the administrative year that runs from October 1 to September 30 every year.

This photo from the Optimist Club of West Plains, Missouri caught my attention for several reasons. First, the traditional model of passing the bell and gavel doesn't happen all that much anymore. Many clubs have given up their bells because they are bulky and difficult to store and carry around.

I also like that the Optimist Creed is visible in the background. It reminds us of our purpose of sharing optimism in order to make the world a better place to live. It unifies Optimist Clubs around the world.

But most of all, it caught my attention because it was one lady passing the gavel to another lady. Women need to seek more leadership positions in all service clubs and for Optimist International, the first step is the club level. I was gratified to see that the gavel was being passed between generations, and I have to say, somewhat thankful when I read that the gavel was going back instead of forward.

As much as we talk about engaging younger generations in our service organizations, our clubs will thrive only when all are involved. The culture must encourage a true mix of ideas and service among a diverse membership whose primary purpose is to make their community a better place to live. That's optimism. Share optimism today.

Photo credit: Optimist Club of West Plains. In the photo: Caryn Lacey (L) and Judy Eastman (R). 

September 30, 2015

New Year's Eve

It's almost 6:30 p.m., official Optimist International time, on September 30, 2015 - our New Year's Eve. Clubs and Districts are still working overtime to be sure that they have completed all the paperwork and other requirements necessary to be declared an Honor Club.

An Honor Club is the minimum requirements set by Optimist International to be sure that an Optimist Club is doing what it needs to do to sustain itself in the coming year and in the future. The requirments are very simple:
With a strong finish and a smooth handoff, I am certain that we can reach our organizational goal of achieving 100,000 members by the 100th anniversary of Optimist International. Let Honor Clubs lead the way. 

September 23, 2015

What shall I do today? Join an Optimist Club

September 30 marks the end of another Optimist International administrative year. In seven days, new officers take their places in clubs, districts and on the international stage.

It can be difficult to to navigate the last couple weeks of an administration. Current officers are trying their best to end the year by leaving their charge better than they found it. Incoming officers are chomping at the bit to take on their new duties and share their leadership ideas.

We'd do well to remember that we are all on one team. The only thing that changes from year-to-year is the name at the top of the letterhead. Our mission is the same as is our passion for serving our communities through the circle of an Optimist Club. We have one continuous goal: increase the membership in our Optimist Clubs so that we may provide more service on the local level throughout the organization.

It's up to you to keep that purpose first and foremost. Ask someone to join your Optimist Club today.

Click here to find an Optimist Club in your community or contact me and I will help you get one started.

September 17, 2015

The Optimist Creed redux

I always enjoy a new way to look at the Optimist Creed. It keeps my outlook positive and encourages me to do more in my community to improve the quality of life for those around me. Enjoy.

September 15, 2015

Scouting alumnus forms new Optimist Club

optimist club of gresham scouters
On Sunday, September 13, 2015, I had the honor of being a field representative for Optimist International. My mission: to organize the new Optimist Club of Gresham Scouters.

I'm proud to say, "Mission accomplished!"

Eighteen new Optimist Club members are now ready to serve their community. I venture to say there may as many as 25 or more by the end of Optimist International administrative year on September 30.

The new Optimist Club of Gresham Scouters was conceived as a single purpose Optimist Club. It's purpose is to assist sponsor organizations, primarily the Optimist Club of Gresham, Oregon, with collaborative activities between the club and scouting programs. During the evening, we determined the club will also be actively involved in the scholarship programs offered by Optimist International among other things.

It is always exciting to welcome a new Optimist Club as it is formed. The new members come with ideas to make their communities even better places to live. For the Gresham Scouters, this group of scouting alumni will make being part of the scouting program even more desirable for its charter organizations.

The PNW District was thrilled to add this group of young adults to the mix of Optimist Club members that make up the PNW Optimist Clubs. Welcome to all.

If you would like to start a scouting alumnus Optimist Club in your community, or to find out more about what the benefits of working toghether with an Optimist Club would be for your pack, troup, post or crew, please send a message to Linda Vaught.

September 6, 2015

See more, be more

When I first joined an Optimist Club,  my mind was on two things: giving back to my community and increasing business  at my family owned and operated television and major appliance store, not necessarily in that order. I hadn't thought about being club president or rising up through district or international ranks. My motives were utilitarian.

It wasn't that long after joining,  three years to be exact,  that I was tapped to be president.  I didn't hesitate; I was honored to be chosen and vowed to do my best. Doing my best, to me, meant finding out more about the umbrella organization with which  Optimist Clubs are affiliated. And with that in mind, I set off to attend my first district convention.

Over the years, I've attended many such gatherings, sometimes in my own district and sometimes traveling to other states to learn more about how we differ and how much we are the same.

What I've learned has helped me personally and professionally.  I've enhanced my  leadership skills and made new friends from around the world. Perhaps most important to me is, prompted by my involvement with Optimist International,  I've changed careers. In doing so, I've continued to learn.

First, I started an economic development agency directed at providing interim executive management services. I assist start-up nonprofit associations with strategic planning and resource development. I also help them recruit members. On other assignments,  I assist organizations that have lost their course or are ready to take the next step in their growth and development.  These three tasks are similar and adherence to a negotiated and publicized strategic plan is key.

I returned to school to complete my Master's degree so that I could perform these tasks better for my clients. That extends well to my volunteer service with Optimist Clubs.  I have a personal mission to tell stories of service conducted by individuals through their involvement with an Optimist Club.  Like me, each person who gets involved with an Optimist Club expands their horizons and when they open themselves to new experiences, they are better for it.

Share optimism.  Join an Optimist Club today. 

August 20, 2015

Children need adults who care about what they do

join an optimist club experience optimism

It's pretty simple. Children should not be left alone to run through a deserted subway station. Nor should they be left alone to run through a crowded one either. However, every day, children are left alone while parents work and other less than positive reasons.

Boys and Girls Clubs, among other organizations, have stepped in to ensure that latchkey kiddos have a place to go after school; but so many more are still left alone to fend for themselves. Sometimes it seems that there are just not enough adults to go around. That's where an Optimist Club can help.

The motto of Optimist International is "Friend of Youth." The organization demonstrates its friendship through more than 65,000 projects conducted annually throughout North America and the Caribbean.

Optimist Club projects are based on what adults see is needed in their own community. When they come together as an Optimist Club, these adults share hopes, dreams and friendship. They make plans and carry them out to make a positive difference in their community. Projects might be as simple as a bicycle rodeo or as complicated as developing a city park to host a youth football program. The point is, the adults make them happen, and along the way they make certain that youths are not left alone.

When an Optimist Club is formed, it makes a promise to its community that together they will care about what children do and they will work to make sure they are reaching their full potential, one child at a time. Don't you want to be a part of that promise?

Join an Optimist Club today. Click here to find an Optimist Club in your community or contact me and I will help you get one started.

August 15, 2015

PNW Optimists take on the Rainiers

A little rain didn't deter our crazy PNW Optimists from enjoying a night at the ballpark. Now that is a Real Friend of Youth.

August 8, 2015

BTS: Shop with a Cop

With so many communities struggling to find ways to connect police officers to those they serve and protect in a positive manner, here is a thought. Many Optimist Clubs, among other service clubs and groups, host Shop with a Cop events at Christmas. Why not hold a similar event right now to help children get ready to go back to school?

I would like to take credit for this little brainstorm, but I borrowed the idea from Caldwell, Idaho where the Fraternal Order of Police recently launched its first Back to School Shop with a Cop event. Shopping day will take place on August 14, 2015 and it will be similar to the Christmas event; however, this shopping spree will find the children buying school supplies, backpacks and shoes, among other things that students need throughout the year.

Each participant will receive $200 and the police officers will accompany the young students on their shopping  trips to ensure they are using their money for the intendend purposes. As we Optimist Club members know, given the chance, the children often try to buy for others first before buying for themselves.

Shop with a Cop programs help humanize the police officers and set a positive tone betwen young people and those in authority so that if a child finds himself or herself in trouble, they are able to trust the police.

Why would an Optimist Club be involved in such a program? Because it meets two of the purposes of Optimist International:
  • To inspire respect for law 
  • To aid and encourage the development of youth, in the belief that the giving of one’s self in service to others will advance the well-being of humankind, community life and the world
Along with our other two purposes: 
  • To promote patriotism and work for international accord and friendship among all people
  • To develop optimism as a philosophy of life, utilizing the tenets of the Optimist Creed
Optimist Clubs are working to bring out the best in youth, our communities and ourselves; right here, right now.

Photo credit: Canyon County Sheriff's Office

August 6, 2015

To 100 members and beyond!

Another Optimist Club that is on a big wave of additions is the Optimist Club of Lebanon, Oregon. On its Facebook page today, it shared, "Getting so crowded with Optimists that some had to be cool kids and sit in the back."

It went on to explain that the club was only 10 members away from fulfilling a challenge. Club members Jim and Heather McDaniel have promised to donate $25,000 to the Lebanon Skate Park when the club reaches 100 members. At 90, it's close!

lebanon optimist club pnw district optimist

The Lebanon Optimists have already met one challenge this year. By reaching 80 members, the McDaniels gave each member a commemmorative coin designed to celebrate the community. What's more, the Optimist Club, as of this writing, has added 44 new members for a net gain of 30 new members for this year.

lebanon optimist club commemmorative coin

Asked how they do it, the humble-brag is that the Optimist Club is the happ'n'st club in town. They are also optimistic at their meetings. No drama allowed. This club gets together to make a positive change it its community.

I had the wonderful experience of visiting the Lebanon Optimists in June 2015. At that time, the membership was between 80 and 85. At least 50 members were in attendance to share fellowship, learn about community events, and to stand together to recite the Optimist Creed. All of those elements combine to make them a truly outstanding Optimist Club.

That's why I'm sure it will meet its challenge. To 100 members and beyond! Keep going, Lebanon Optimists!

August 3, 2015

Seventy-six and growing

You often hear that membership is waning in service clubs around the globe, especially in the United States. That's not true for the Noon Optimist Club of Rome, Georgia. According to the club president, Charles Graves, the Noon Optimist Club recently held a membership drive and over a two-month period has added 12 new Optimist Club members.

new optimist club members georgia district

Shown in the photo, from left, are Wendy Huckaby, Larry Morrow, Sr., Justin Mitchell, Rodney Bailey, Tim Leonard, Cindy Green Fricks and Ben Simmons. They join 69 other members to make up the largest Optimist Club in the Georgia District.

Like most Optimist Clubs, the Noon Club hosts a number of student appreciation programs including "A Terrific Kid" annual banquet that honors students from each middle school in Rome and Floyd Counties. The club is also active in the district and local scholarship programs. It has been serving its community for 54 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Noon Rome Optimist Club or if you would like to find an Optimist Club near you and get involved, please click on this Optimist Club directory link.

Photo credit: Noon Optimist Club of Rome, GA

July 30, 2015

Optimist Clubs go international with 2016 Oratorical Contest World Championships

In 1928, Optimist International started the Optimist Oratorical Contest, the oldest of its scholarship programs. Each year since that time, young speakers have worked their way from the Optimist Club level to the Zone and District level to compete for prizes. The prizes have ranged from medals to modest scholarship awards and for many years, the top prize has been a $2,500 scholarship payable to the college or university of the winning student.

Coming in 2016, the Optimist Oratorical Contest is receiving a makeover. It will still involve the Optimist Club, Zone and District levels, but it has been enhanced to be truly international with more scholarship money - $22,500 - to claim.

Thanks to a partnership with St. Louis University, District winners will advance to a Regional level for a chance to win an additional $5,000. Winners from each of the 8 Regions will then advance to international competition where they will compete with oratorical contestants from around the world for $15,000.

Details for the competition at the Regional and International level are still being finalized; however, students can begin preparing today for their local and state or district-wide events. The theme is "How My Best Brings Out the Best in Others." 

Students must be 18 years old or younger as of October 1, 2015. Find complete rules and learn more at this link: Optimist International World Championships Oratorical Contest 2016.

All scholarship contests begin at the club level. Click here to find an Optimist Club near you.

July 19, 2015

Recite the Optimist Creed; wake up on the bright side

It's always interesting to see if my weekly thought about joining an Optimist Club has legs. In other words, which one of my pithy little statements will be shared and shared again on Facebook?

I posted this particular thought (Wake up on the bright side of life: Join an Optimist Club)during  the Optimist International Convention and sure enough, it went from coast to coast as Optimist Club members from North America shared it with their own Optimist Clubs.

Most know that the Optimist Creed tells us to "Look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true." If you are striving to do so, it is inevitable that you will wake up with a sunny disposition. I also believe that if you know you have friends who are striving to do the same, you'll try even harder to make your collaborative promise come true.

One of my favorite things about being an Optimist Club member is reciting the Optimist Creed with others. It's a powerful promise when we say the ten resolutions to ourselves each day, and when we say it together, it rings with action.

If you enjoy having a positive nature, and who doesn't, I encourage you to share optimism and join an Optimist Club today.  Click here to find an Optimist Club near you or contact me. I would be happy to help you start a new Optimist Club in your community. 

July 17, 2015

Build a Little Free Library

experience optimism little library
My Experience Optimism post today comes from a sister service club - Kiwanis - and while this charming little house was built by the Kiwanis Club of Fircrest, Washington, any service club can do it.

What is it? A small lending library.

Sitting on the corner of Fircrest Park, this cute little house encourages readers to take a book and leave a book as often as they wish.

While you may not need to affiliate in order to create a library in your community, this lending library is a chartered member of the Little Free Libary.  By affiliating with the organization, you get your name on the online map plus the support and ideas of other neighborhood libraries around the world. They will also send you $150 worth of free books to help you get started.

I like this project because it impacts local neighborhoods directly and provides a great way to keep real books in our hands. It's not terribly hard to build and maintain; you can find some plans here for building your Little Free Library and tips for marketing your library once it is established. There are also suggestions for working with your local park, neighborhood association, or other venues for locating your Little Free Library.

I'm going to encourage my Optimist Club to build one at the next meeting. Why don't you?

July 11, 2015

Bringing out the best

The final business session of the 2015 Optimist International Convention has come to a close. New Optimist Club builders have been honored, district leadership teams have been recognized, business has been conducted and inspiration has been shared by the Ken Garner, Optimist International President 2014-2015 and Dave Bruns, Optimist International President 2015-2016.

As we return to our home clubs and our local communities where the impact of our work is personally delivered and felt, we do so with a renewed sense of purpose. Optimist Clubs have been bringing out the best in children for more than 10 years. Starting right here, right now, we'll also bring out the best in our communities and ourselves. I'm looking forward to it. Won't you join me by joining an Optimist Club today?

"We need the work of Optimist Clubs in our communities now more than ever," states Dave Bruns. #OIConv15NOLA
Posted by PNW Optimist District on Saturday, July 11, 2015

July 3, 2015

Happy to give

Did you know that Optimist Club members are happier giving away money than the groups that receive the assistance? Sometimes, and that certainly looks true in this great picture captured by the Halton Hills Optimist Club. 

In the photo, President Helen MacCormack presents a check for $1,570 to Jason Claringbold of the Halton Hills Mosquito Eagles Baseball team. Helen knows that her club's donation is helping young people develop into well-rounded adults by learning teamwork, sportsmanship and improving their physical wellness. 

More important, she knows that she and her fellow club members are serving their purpose of providing service to youth and community through the Optimist Club. That makes me smile too! How about you?

Photo courtesy of the Halton Hills Optimist Club.

June 28, 2015

Everybody knows that!

In the search for optimistic sayings, I recently read that an optimist is a person who continually looks for a new definition of optimist.

In honor of that assertion, I decided to roll out an oldie, but a goodie with the time-honored statement, "An optimist sees the donut; a pessimist sees the hole."

It's true, you know.  An optimist sees the benefit of all situations first and foremost. When you begin a project with the "I can" attitude, it's amazing how far and fast you'll go.

Your community needs many like-minded optimists to help it be the best it can be. That's why I encourage community service through an Optimist Club. Share your optimism by joining an Optimist Club today.

 Click here to find an Optimist Club near you or contact me and I will help you start a new Optimist Club in your community. 

June 17, 2015

Kids say the darndest things

Kids say the darndest things. Or maybe they say the most brilliant statements that can be made. I found this post on the Optimist Club of Greater Vienna's Facebook page today and just had to share. According to the post, a contestant in the Communications Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCDHH) said, "Confidence with optimism is better than just confidence."

It's rather difficult to argue with that kind of logic!

If you would like to experience optimism through the eyes of children and young adults, I invite you to join an Optimist Club. Each year, Optimist Clubs host Essay, Oratorical and CCDHH contests for students to compete and earn scholarship money. It's a bonus for members to hear their voices, ideas and dreams.

At the club level, winning amounts are determined by the individual club. From each club, a contestant moves forward to zone and district competition. At that level, each first place winner earns a $2,500 scholarship.

Coming in 2016, Optimist International has partnered with St. Louis University to host an expanded Optimist International Oratorical Contest. Each first place district winner will move forward to a regional competition where they may win $10,000. The first place winners of the eight regions will then move forward to compete for an additional $15,000.

Details of the new competition levels are still being completed and we are excited for the expansion; however, every level of competition in an Optimist International scholarship contest gives the participant poise, confidence and hope. We encourage every teacher to involve their classes in this opportunity, but students, don't wait. You can enter with or without formal classroom involvement. Find out more about the Optimist International Scholarship Contests.  New topics for the coming school year are generally announced in late July.

Another in the irregular series, "What Do Optimists Do?" Optimists give kids a voice--and it is worth listening to! At...
Posted by Optimist Club of Greater Vienna on Wednesday, June 17, 2015

If you would like to experience optimism through the eyes of children and young adults, I invite you to join an Optimist Club. Each year, Optimist Clubs host Essay, Oratorical and CCDHH contests for students to compete and earn scholarship money.

At the club level, winning amounts are determined by the individual club. From each club, a contestant moves forward to zone and district competition. At that level, each first place winner earns a $2,500 scholarship.

Coming in 2016, Optimist International has partnered with St. Louis University to host an expanded Optimist International Oratorical Contest. Each first place district winner will move forward to a regional competition where they may win $10,000. The first place winners of the eight regions will then move forward to compete for an additional $15,000.

Details of the new competition levels are still being completed and we are excited for the expansion; however, every level of competition in an Optimist International scholarship contest gives the participant poise, confidence and hope. We encourage every teacher to involve their classes in this opportunity, but students, don't wait. You can enter with or without formal classroom involvement. Find out more about the Optimist International Scholarship Contests.  New topics for the coming school year are generally announced in late July.

May 18, 2015

Our youth will bloom where they are planted

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the final, or district-level, competition for the Communications Contest for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students (CCDHH) and the Optimist Oratorical Contest for the Pacific Northwest District - Optimist International.

This is perhaps one of the most inspirational meetings of the year for we get to hear from the best and brightest young people hailing from British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon and Washington as they share their thoughts on a common theme. This year, that theme is "How my optimism will help me press on to the greater achievements of the future."

Optimist Club members know that theme comes directly from the Optimist Creed. The young speakers, however, met the topic with their very own observations made from their experiences in their lives. We heard an impassioned cry to draw awareness to teen suicide and we heard how differently-abled persons learn to live and thrive in a world that doesn't necessarily understand them.

Ben Fullerton, a speaker with cerebral palsy, confined to a wheelchair and utilizing a computer to speak for him told the assembly, "I'm optimistic. I don't want your sympathy, but I would like you to understand my reality."

His thought, among others that I heard, made me realize, perhaps adults don't really understand what goes on in any teenager's mind. We think we do because we've been that age ourselves, but the culture and environment is different from when we were that age. I'm inspired by their perserverence. Most of all, I'm inspired by their optimism. Children really can and do bloom where they are planted. 

As an Optimist Club member, that makes me happy. We're here to serve children; but we are also here to help our peers be the best version of themselves as well. If this pursuit sounds interesting to you, I invite you to join an Optimist Club. Click here to find an Optimist Club near you or contact me and I will help you start a new Optimist Club in your community. Share optimism today. 

May 9, 2015

Smiling, it's my favorite thing to do

There's something inherently relatable about the little yellow creatures called minions that emerged from the movie "Despicable Me." They are cute, affable, sometimes clumsy and always hard-working.

As followers of a more powerful force, we know that they are trying their best just to get by and while doing so, they mumble in an inexplicable language that somehow the viewer understands.

Face it: minions make us smile.

Do you know what else makes you smile? An Optimist Club. I know that you knew I was going to say that, but that doesn't make it any less true.

Much like the minions who come together and scurry about to accomplish their goals, an Optimist Club does the same. Club members share a common vision, to bring out the best in youth, community and themselves; and they develop and implement projects and programs that will help them make their vision come true. It's an inspiring way to live.

Sharing optimism and making people smile is a pursuit that I encourage all to take. Join an Optimist Club today. Click here to find an Optimist Club near you or contact me and I will help you start a new Optimist Club in your community.

May 7, 2015

Malibu teachers awarded for dedication to youth

Through its members, Optimist Clubs strive to bring out the best in children by working hands-on with them to help them realize and reach for their full potential. Optimist Clubs do this on a random basis by coordinating scholarship programs, hosting youth sports events and producing family-style festivals, among other things, that set the children in the right direction.

However, there are others who do this regularly, every weekday, for nine or more months per year. They are called teachers. The Malibu Optimist Club recently held its eighth annual teacher appreciation "Excellence in Education" program. Six teachers were awarded the "Teacher of the Year" at their respective Malibu schools.

The teachers were nominated by their school principals and honored by the Optimist Club with award plaques and $100 gift certificates to a local merchant. Congratulations to all.

Optimist Phil Gajic (far left) poses with (left to right) Susy R. Blair of Webster Elementary, Heather Russell of Our Lady of Malibu, Sandy Carter of Point Dume Marine, Julie Siegel of Juan Cabrillo Elementary, Juliacheri Hoos of Malibu Middle School, Henry Wadsworth of Malibu High School, Optimist Ken Kearsely and Optimist President Tarek Shraibati.

Thanks to the Malibu Optimist Club for the photo.

April 27, 2015

Look for the beauty that is all around you

join an optimist club beauty
Two weeks ago, I was in Hawaii. I first visited Honolulu and enjoyed the busy-ness of the the island paradise along with the remarkable Waikiki Beach. My hotel, the Hilton Hawaii Village Resort, was bustling with activity, much like a small city, as tourists relaxed, dined and were transported to and from island attractions like Pearl Harbor, Diamondhead and more. I heard that Hawaii ran on island time, and this resort seemed to revolve at a special pace.

The next and final stop in my island adventure was the big island of Hawaii, carefully chosen because I wanted to see the volcanoes in Volcanoes National Park. What I didn't realize was that although the island of Hawaii is approximately 230 miles in circumference, or what might be a 3-4 hour drive in total, getting around the island is much more difficult. On this island, island time means slow, slow, slow because you just can't get from here to there, or Kona to Hilo, without circling that big expanse.

Slowing down has its perks. For visitors to the big island, the slow pace of the drive leads you through lava fields, ranches, tropical rainforests and valleys of indescribable, untouched, rolling green fields all while viewing the incredible sand and waves of the Pacific Ocean. Beauty surrounds you, in so many forms; but to take it all in, one must relax and open their mind and heart to the experience. One can't be rushed to get to Mt. Kilauea for to do so would mean that you miss the small attractions along the way where the culture of island life plays out.

As one slows down, they understand that their visit to Hawaii can make them an optimist because it is difficult to view the awe and wonder of nature without a sense of hope.

Working with an Optimist Club provides a sense of hope for we work to bring out the best in children. With projects, big and small, we share optimism with those around us today and help future generations adopt a similar attitude so they may also share optimism. A sense of optimism develops when you look for the beauty that is all around you. Look for the potential and nurture it; join an Optimist Club and bring out the best in youth, your community, and yourself.

Find an Optimist Club here or contact me and I will help you start a new Optimist Club in your community.

April 24, 2015

Children fish for $10,000 prize money with Cocoa Beach Optimist Club

Nothing is better than fishing with children unless it also involves an Optimist Club and the beauty of a Florida beach.

The Cocoa Beach Optimist Club has been delivering a priceless family experience to the Space Coast community at Port Canaveral for 32 years. This year the Great Optimist Fishout takes place on April 25, 2015. Presented by Southeastern Honda, it will be another day for the memory books.

Children in four age categories will vie for $600 in prize money for the top three biggest fish by weight in each age group. However a bigger prize awaits beneath the water. One lucky youth angler and his or her family could win a big catch of $10,000. A specially tagged fish has been released and is available for the catch. It is insured by the Cocoa Beach Optimist Club.

See some photos and read more here about the Great Optimist Fishout. 

April 21, 2015

Barbados Optimist Clubs proud of its young orators

Right now is one of my favorite times of the Optimist International administrative year. It is when Optimist Clubs and Districts all recognize young people for their communications skills through participation in the Optimist International Oratorical Contest and Communications Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCDHH). In fact, I like it so much that I use Pinterest collect pictures from Optimist Club scholarship contests submitted to local newspapers and then posted online. This is one reason, among many, that Optimist Clubs and Districts should be diligent about submitting press releases and recognizing their deserving youthful winners. People like me might pick up the story and help amplify it through their own networks.

A special post on Facebook caught my attention today. Posted by the Optimist Club of Barbados-Bridgetown, the young orators winning the Caribbean District Optimist International Oratorical Contest in 2015 were from Barbados. Congratulations to all.

2015 Caribbean District Oratorical Contest winners - all hailing from Barbados and we are proud:2nd place winner...
Posted by Optimist Club of Barbados - Bridgetown on Monday, April 20, 2015

April 18, 2015

How to be happy

Yesterday, I read an article that claims acetaminophen depresses emotions. That's right, the little pill known as Tylenol, that is taken by so many and included in over 600 different medicines, may take away your happiness at the same time that it eases your pain.

An optimist would ask, "Is that a good thing?"

I think not would be the answer because, you see, optimism can also take away pain. By visualizing positive outcomes and positive attributes about oneself, a study has concluded that there is a causal link between optimism and lower pain sensitivity.

In layman's terms, we call this hope. Why would someone need or want to take a pill when a positive, hopeful disposition would do as much or more?

Part of the reason might be that pill-popping is an easy, quick fix; however, we must be careful of the long-term effects of any quick fix. What do we give up when we choose instant gratification? There are balances that must be weighed.

Clinical researchers have started to create optimism training for pain intervention. This is a medical solution that may better be conducted by a community solution, namely, participation in social activities. My suggestion is to give a concentrated effort to participate in social activities that are known for their positive ideology. Join an Optimist Club and find others who are working on their positive mental attitudes and eliminating pain every day.

Find out how you can share optimism by joining an Optimist Club in your local community. If there's not a club near you, please contact me and I'll help you start a new Optimist Club in your home town.

April 5, 2015

Happy Easter from @Midfire and @Midoptimist

Victor Islas

I doubt there is anything more fun than the 60 seconds following the horn that blows to start an Easter Egg Hunt. Whether you call them a scramble, dash, roll or hunt, Optimist Clubs around the US and Canada get in the action to bring family-friendly cheer to their communities. It's just one way that Optimist Club members say, "We care."

Shown here is Optimist Club member and Middleton Rural Fire District Community Relations Officer/Paramedic Victor Islas taking a selfie as he readies the crowd for the egg-off at Foote Park, Middleton, Idaho.

On behalf of Victor and the Middleton Rural Fire District, and especially the Middleton Area Optimist Club, it my honor to wish you a Happy Easter.

April 4, 2015

Hang ten with an Optimist Club

The colorful and happy hibiscus is the token flower of Hawaiian shirts and surfboard couture around the world. Nothing says positive mental attitude - PMA - more than the surfer move of hanging ten.

To hang ten means that the surfer has positioned the board in such a way that the back of it is covered by the wave and freeing her to walk to the front of the board to hang all ten toes over its nose.

Sounds exhilarating; don't you think?

However the true exhilaration comes from the belief that one can do it - catch a wave, and ride it with skilled, but reckless abandon.

When one adopts a positive mental attitude they free themselves from the skepticism that would otherwise hold them back from big and small risks. It provides freedom and hope.

As a member of an Optimist Club, I work on keeping my positive mental attitude. There are many challenges that may distract us every day. Simply opening email or answering the phone brings the outside world into our home and interaction requires preparation and thoughtfulness. Without both, we might snap at those who want to wish us a happy day instead of wishing them a good day in return, but my optimism prevents that from happening.

Sharing optimism is a noble pursuit. Sharing a positive mental attitude should be everyone's purpose in life. Think how peaceful this world could be!

If you are ready to develop and keep a positive mental attitude, I recommend joining an Optimist Club. Click here to find an Optimist Club near you or contact me and I'll help you start a new Optimist Club in your community.

April 3, 2015

What's an Optimist Oratorical Contest like?

The Optimist Club of Southfield-Lathrup, Michigan has completed its Optimist Oratorical Contest for 2015.

District Governor Cheryl Thames was on hand to congratulate the winners, and as she has done all year, share what being part of an Optimist Club is all about.

Please enjoy the video and learn why you should join an Optimist Club today.

March 21, 2015

Optimist spring

Hope blossoms once a year giving rebirth to nature and promising growth and happiness to all who step outside to view its colorful canvas.

Plans are put into action to fulfill the dreams made during the cover of winter's chill. Spring has arrived.

Every day, I read, and sometimes recite, the Optimist Creed. It gives me hope year-round. I don't have to wait for the clouds to clear, the snow to melt, or the sun to shine to share my optimism with the world. The Optimist Creed inspires my optimism every day.

Thanks to the gentlemen who invited me, ever so reluctantly, to join their Optimist Club more than 25 years ago, I find that I have a dose of optimism - a dose of spring - every time I gather with others to share my optimism as part of a group that wants only to do good in their community. We make plans to host oratorical and essay scholarship contests, provide youth sports programs, host Easter egg hunts, show movies in the park and so much more. But most important, we share springtime with hope and positive vision for all.

I invite you to experience a year-round spring by being part of an Optimist Club. Share optimism. Join an Optimist Club. Click here to find an Optimist Club near you or contact me and I will help you start a new Optimist Club in your community.

March 3, 2015

Another Pancake Jubilee is history

I've been watching the activities of the Optimist Club of Meridian, Mississippi for a few years now, ever since I set up an alert for the Optimist Club of Meridian, Idaho. Google doesn't seem to know the difference between the states and that's quite alright with me. The Mississippi club is doing vital work in its community.

One of my favorites is its annual Pancake Jubilee. I've written before here and here, among other entries, how pancakes can bring a community together. At breakfast, you see your neighbors, colleagues, friends and family and share stories. I believe it is much like how sitting around a campfire nurtured the cultures of our ancestors.

But I like one more thing especially well about this particular pancake breakfast. It's not just a breakfast; it's a jubilee! There is just something joyful about an event when it's given a festive, extraordinary name.

Please enjoy some scenes from the Meridian, Mississippi Optimist Club Pancake Jubilee courtesy of WTOK. 

February 23, 2015

Measure the goodness of a team
Optimist Clubs do many good things in the communities where they serve. From youth sports programs to scholarship contests, among other things, individuals are able to find their passion and make a difference by helping children in a purposeful way.

However, the true reason to join an Optimist Club is so that you can make friends and acquaintances that share your passions so that together, you can do more.

On Saturday, February 21, I attended the first leadership summit of 2015 for Optimist International. Designed for club presidents and members who want to help optimism grow in their communities, it focused on a number of leadership issues like conflict resolution, managing change, stages of leadership and team building.

During the team building session, the facilitator asked, why do we need a team? About fifty Optimists looked forward without an answer. I don't know if they were waiting for the presenter to tell them or if they were merely stumped for a reply, but finally, one of the younger attendees, a student and member of the University of California Santa Barbara Optimist Club spoke up to say, "We need a team to accomplish the things that we cannot do ourselves."

I think we often forget that. Teams are important for they allow us to accomplish more. Perhaps Gen X, Baby Boomers, and earlier generations don't recognize this because the dynamics of engagement were different as they matured. They grew up with an hierarchical culture that accepted orders whereas the younger generations are used to an open culture where individuals are equally accountable to themselves, the project on which they are working and their fellow-workers.

Both models work, and both models have their place; however, I propose that in a civic - social setting, the open team model is the best approach for it allows input at all levels of planning and implementation. It allows goodness to come forward first, last and in-between as team members work together to make things happen in their communities.

Optimist Clubs are truly about the team model. By forming committees and task forces, the groups within an Optimist Club conduct many more projects than an individual might conceive of alone. Together they provide a measurable difference and you can too when you join an Optimist Club.

Click here to find and join an Optimist Club in your community. If there is not one listed, please contact me and I'll help you start a new Optimist Club to help you spread goodness wherever you live.

February 7, 2015

The children need you join an optimist club
I typically write and talk about what it means to me to be an Optimist Club member. For me, the value is in the relationships that I create with other adults, my peers who want to do good things in their communities. I'm inspired by the potential that we have to serve.

Some are more inspired by the mission of Optimist International which is "With hope and positive vision, Optimist Club members bring out the best in children."

Yes, it's true. The children need us to do more than make our communities great places to live. Children need us, adults, to be there for and with them; to create projects and programs that recognize and involve them, and perform activities that make them feel special and worthy. More important, the children need us to roll our sleeves up and get in there and participate right along with them and give them the true feeling that adults do care about them.

Optimist Club members do that especially well. It's said that every Optimist Club member personally touches the lives of at least 32 children every year. That might be from a bicycle rodeo, a scholarship contest, a literacy program, or maybe only a donation, among other things, but it is important that adults continue to be involved, in whatever way possible. That's why I implore you to join an Optimist Club. The children really do need you.

Click here to find and join an Optimist Club in your community. If there is not one listed, please contact me and I'll help you start a new Optimist Club to serve the children in your city or town.

February 1, 2015

Family ties

I joined the Optimist Club of Granite City, Illinois in 1987. I've written about it before; I had wanted to join for some time, but it took quite a while for the men in this civic service club to allow women to enter its hallowed halls.

Once admitted, I got very involved moving through club leadership to district leadership and eventually landing a job at Optimist International headquarters as the director of membership development.

That position led me to visit Idaho and eventually move to the Pacific Northwest District - Optimist International. Once there, I took a hiatus. I never stopped my membership in an Optimist Club; however, my position as the executive director of the Gem County Chamber of Commerce encouraged me to participate in a different community organization, so I did. Service to our community is important, vital and necessary, no matter its flavor of membership and my involvement in the brand K club gave me the opportunity to learn about its inner-workings as I was quickly elected to be the club secretary-treasurer and appointed chairperson of the Key Club at the high school.

Fast forward several years when it was time to make a career move. I left the community and the club behind and never looked back because the Optimist family opened its arms, welcoming me on my return.

I was happy to be home because the people are different in an Optimist Club. I think it comes from the overarching goodness of the Optimist Creed. When people come together to promise themselves to look at the sunny side of everything and make their optimism come true, you know they are working on their personal development, they want to be good people, as well as doing projects that improve their community. That's important because positive psychology tells us that people with a positive mental attitude are happy and successful.

People who are connected to others with strong social bonds are happier still. When you reach out to an Optimist Club, the club members open their heart, and sometimes, literally, their arms, in true warmth and connection. You are welcomed to the family and no matter where you go in life, the Optimist Club family, more than 2,000 clubs strong, is there to welcome and cheer you and above all, inspire you to keep moving forward with your strong family ties.

You should become part of the Optimist family. Join an Optimist Club near you or start an Optimist Club family of your own. Please send me a message and I'll help you get one started today.


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