By: Kevin Carnine
I have been an optimist my whole life. Optimism is something you are born with; it is not easily learned and seldom taught. It is hard to keep, something that needs to be nursed, massaged, and constantly fed, otherwise that nasty illness known as pessimism can come creeping in. I was lucky when I moved to Beaver Dam six years ago. I found a group that thought like me and believed that optimism can be grown in adults, but is absolutely infectious in the youth of a community. The Optimist Club of Beaver Dam is that group.
Started in 1983, the Optimist Club of Beaver Dam was created with the belief and goal that the youth of this community need support and activities that will feed the natural optimism that we all have as children. A child is not born with the belief that they cannot do something or that things will never get better; those are things they learn from their surroundings. The Optimist Club has always strived to be an example of what can be achieved if you believe and have faith.
The club recently held a new member orientation where we “showed off” our club to prospective members. On one of the tables were scrapbooks with pictures and newspaper clippings dating back to the beginning of the club. It is hard not to smile and feel pride about the club when you look at all of the amazing projects, ideas and support the club has been a part of over the years. One of the first major projects took place at the Beaver Dam Mall and involved a mountain of pumpkins. In 1984, the first pumpkin carving contest took place. With carving knives in hand and pumpkin guts everywhere, dozens of children went home with a free pumpkin and a happy memory. As an aside, the event was changed to pumpkin decorating in subsequent years, seven-year-olds with knives makes for a scary Saturday.
Paging through the scrapbooks, the projects and events that the club has tackled passed in front of me: Tri-Star Basketball, Just Say No Club, Optimist Golf Tournament, Middle School Writing Contest, College Scholarships, Bike Rodeo, Adopt-a-Highway, and thousands of poinsettias sold. As the club’s main fundraiser, the annual holiday poinsettia sale has made over $120,000 through the years. Every dollar of that money has gone back to the community in sponsorship and support of organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, PAVE, Swan City Skaters, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts of America.
My childhood memories are peppered with stories and events sponsored or run by organizations like these. I shudder to think where our youth will be in the future without these organizations, and that is why I feel it is so important for the Optimist Club to continue to strive to help the youth of the community.
I turned the page of one of the scrapbooks and there was The Optimist Creed, a collection of statements recited at the beginning of each Optimist Club meeting. You could say that it is our Ten Commandments, but instead of “Thou shall not,” in true Optimist fashion the statements all start in the affirmative: “Promise yourself to…”
Optimism is a way of life. It takes effort and commitment to wake up every morning and face the world with a smile and a belief that you are going to make it a little better place. The last line from the Optimist Creed sums it all up: “Promise yourself to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.”
I love being an Optimist. I love being a member of a club that believes in looking at the sunny side of everything. I love that we have active members that have been with the club from the beginning, and I look to them as examples of what it means to be a true optimist. I believe that things can and will be better, and the Optimist Club believes that too!