June 12th, 2024

Letter: Optimist Club of Medicine Hat thanks community after tough decision to disband

By Letter to the Editor on April 10, 2024.

Dear editor,

The end came quickly at the April 3, 2023 regular meeting of the Optimist Club of Medicine Hat as it voted unanimously to disband.

The club, whose international motto is “Friend of Youth,” chartered in December of 1961, and has been a major player and supporter of local youth programs in the City of Medicine Hat.

In the years since its charter the club has been involved either directly or in the form of financial support to dozens of youth projects. To list all would take a lot of space but some of the more notable are support of minor baseball, minor hockey, ringette, AMAC swimmers, Boxing Club, minor soccer, Scouts Canada, food bank, women’s shelter, Walk for Kenny, Parents of Handicappers and the Harold School Centre for the Handicapped.

The club also built several school playgrounds, namely at Elm Street School and Herald School. The Optimist also sponsored essay contests, oratorical contests and breakfast with Santa Claus.

In the early days, the club organized and ran soap box races down Third Street hill. The club was also a longtime supporter of the Rotary Music Festival and scholarships at local high schools. Over the years, hundreds of people have volunteered hundreds of thousands of hours to support local youth.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised through local bingo, casino and popcorn sales at the local exhibition and chuckwagon events, and many other community events.

Following the vote, past distinguished president Dick Mastel, who made the motion to disband, said, “This hurts.”

Over the last number of years, the club has suffered from a declining and aging membership. It has been very difficult to attract new and younger membership.

Attitudes about volunteer service have changed over the last 50 years. Young parents are extremely busy with their own children, often shuttling between three or four events a week.

Sadly, with the club known for its exclusive work for the youth in the city, one large supporter is gone. There is another Optimist Club in the city, the All Nations Optimist Club of Medicine Hat. This club, which was sponsored by the Optimist Club of Medicine Hat, is still in operation.

The Optimist Club of Medicine Hat wishes to thank the many, many supporters of the club, both individuals and businesses. We highly valued your support over the 60-plus years of operation.

Through this partnership we have been able to touch the lives and hearts of countless young people in our city.

Optimist Club of Medicine Hat

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