NEW FIELDS OPENING
Group effort 14 years in the making
A member of the Lindsay Optimist Club details the efforts that led to the creation of the town’s newest soccer fields.
It's been a long journey for this group.
"So how are you different," they were asked.
"Well, we've always had to punch above our weight," they said. "In our first years, our ability to raise funds for good causes was limited compared to other service clubs, so we had to find a way to compensate for that. To make up for it, we had to ratchet up our own time and energy. We had to give more personal time raising money and then we had to go out there and become deeply involved with those we were helping. That kind of stuck and it's part of our culture."
We're talking about the Lindsay Optimist Club, a very active hands-on service club that keeps growing.
The club was 40 years old last year and has about 50 members currently, made up of custodians, teachers, doctors, farmers, lawyers and barbers...In fact, if you asked them all what they do, you would cover the whole spectrum of jobs, and then if you asked them how this could possibly work, they would say it's because of their single vision: to help youth. If there were to steal an old quote and then change it a bit, it would probably be, "the greatest good for the greatest number of young people."
LIke most service clubs, they have meetings twice a month to take care of business and listen to speakers but they mostly get together when they're helping young people. Most people know they run the annual Optimist Bike Rodeo and Optimist Youth Soccer program but few likely know of their help for young people with special needs. Over the years, they've provided medical and sports equipment, camp and leadership opportunities and too much more to list here.
Tomorrow, Saturday, June 15 at 12:30 p.m., will bring the official opening of the new Optimist Soccer Club just east of Wilson Field at the southeast corner of Colborne St. W and St. Joseph Rd.
And what will they be doing before and after that ceremonial event? No surprise. They'll be running a soccer tournament.
The club's soccer history is most interesting - it goes back to 1984. Optimists Jack Kyle, Rick Couples, Dave Kennedy and their families asked the Town of Lindsay to let the club take on the town's soccer program. They had a special vision for youth soccer. They wanted co-ed teams, equal playing time regardless of talent and a strong focus on personal excellence and fun over winning.
Each spring, they signed up young people, talked parents and older siblings into becoming coaches and sought team sponsors and referees.
Each May and June, they acted as soccer conveners for the Monday and Wednesday soccer games all over town.
And the concept worked. More young people signed up, more conveners, coaches and referees came forward and the program grew from 50 players on four teams to 700 players on 70 teams, each sponsored by a community business or organization, each with volunteer coaches and all of it supported by well- trained teenaged referees.
But the number of good soccer fields didn't grown. So they built a long-term plan in 1999 to financially prepare for the day when they and their still-unknown partners could build a new soccer park.
And the rest is really modern history, they did build that Optimist Soccer Park.
How did it finally come together? With the part of the needed funds nearly in place by 2008, Optimist Pete Sanderson chaired an Optimist Soccer Park committee of members with special skills, and they were very successful.
A year later, the City of Kawartha Lakes provided them with vacant land on the east side of St. Joseph Rd.
People lived and worked closed by, so the committee spent some time with the neighbours making sure the plan met their needs too.
Shortly after, Daniel O' Brien and Associates Landscape Architects took on the design challenge.
Still a year later, the Lindsay Legacy CHEST (Community Hydro Electric System Transfer) Fund and the Ontario Trillium Foundation joined the Optimist Club and the City of Kawartha Lakes as partners.
Then in 2011, Gerald Everson Excavating Limited began the job of turning the design into a reality. And the next year, Pickseed Canada planted turf seed.
Near the end of this long process, one of the club's most significant members became gravely ill, but continued working on the project. A founding member of the Lindsay Optimist Club, twice its president, more recently a treasurer and member of the soccer committee, Dale Toombs passed away on Jan. 25.
Late this spring when the snow melted and the seed produced good grass, young soccer players stepped onto the new fields for the first time. And it didn't surprise us to learn that one of those fields will be named after Mr. Toombs.
So a final thought. If you've ever wondered what ingredients are needed for the success of a 14year-old dream, you might just copyright this one. If you really break it down, it included a shared vision, far-sighted leadership, unselfish volunteers, openhearted partners and special neighbours.