Group ef­fort 14 years in the mak­ing

The Lindsay Post - - FRONT PAGE - ROSS SMYTH Spe­cial to The Lind­say Post Ross Smyth is a mem­ber of the Lind­say Op­ti­mist Club

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.

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