Optimist International goes back to around the year 1911. A bunch of nice
fellows in Buffalo, N.Y., used to get together every so often. They'd eat lunch
and shoot the breeze and figure out ways to make their community a better
place for everyone. They didn't have a lot of money, but they had a vision and
lots of determination.
Word spread and the first Canadian Optimist Club was finally formed by
dedicated young man by the name of Bill Skilling.
Bill Skilling and two of his friends had begun to meet in December of 1923.
Because of those devoted early pioneer Optimists, Ontario clubs, as well as
Optimist International survived the Great Depression of the 1930's and the war
years, from 1939 to 1945.
Optimists International had a "men only" policy in force, up until 1981,
the organization decided to allow women to join. This wasn't achieved until
1987. In that summer of 1987, the first three women to join the Optimist Club
of East Ottawa were Claire Duncis, Rita Tanguay and Judy Gervais.
Since 1924, Optimist International has worked hard to provide boys with
skills that were then not learned in school. They have supported youth sports
both in their communities and in association with schools. They not only
helped financially, but they also attended games, to encourage the players of
the various teams they sponsored.
One of the first priorities of the early Optimist clubs was to form Junior
Optimist Clubs, where kids were given the opportunity to help other kids. They
believed that building a youth club was a solid investment in the future. Today
youngsters enter anything from essay contests to golf tournaments through
the support of various Optimist Clubs in Ontario.
Optimist Clubs in Ontario have been serving youth for 76 years.