Optimists support local youth with events like this weekend’s car show | SierraSun.com

Optimists support local youth with events like this weekend’s car show

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunTruckee resident James Blair's 1995 Ford F-350 pickup will be on display at this weekend's Cannibal Cruise.
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Truckee Optimists are ever hunting for new fund-raisers, always with one goal in mind.

“Kids are our thing,” said Steve Maitland, a 20-year member of Truckee Optimists Club and 15-year chairman for the annual Cannibal Cruise car show. “Anything that has to do with kids.”

The club’s 82 members have done well to meet their goal.

Between Cannibal Cruise and the annual Christmas tree fund-raiser, Maitland said Truckee Optimists in the last 20 years have raised close to $1 million to pay for scholarships, youth programs and activities and equipment for schools, such as computers.

One of the largest non-holiday events in the Truckee-North Tahoe area, Cannibal Cruise alone has raised approximately $300,000 in its 14-year history, Maitland said, helping to give away $10,000 to $12,000 in scholarships in the Truckee area.

Truckee Optimists, founded in 1971, had only 15 members when Maitland came aboard in 1985.

“We’ve come quite a ways since then,” he said.

According to its Web site, the Truckee Optimists is one of 3,200 autonomous clubs in the United States under the umbrella of International Optimists, which was founded in 1919. Of those 3,200 clubs, according to the site, about 105,000 individual members conduct 65,000 service projects each year, serving 6 million people. They also spend $78 million on their communities annually.

“Optimists International is a major authority on how we run our clubs,” said Maitland, who is also International Optimists’ lieutenant governor in the Truckee area.

That means local optimists must abide by the mission statement, which reads “Optimists International’s mission is to foster an optimistic way of life, through a network of optimists, dedicated to the full development of their potential in order to provide ever-expanding service to youth, the community and the world.”

And in the future, according to the site, “Optimists International will be recognized worldwide as an organization of people committed to optimism and self-development for the improvement of youth and community.”

Mel Cone, a Truckee Optimist member of 25 years, said the primary goal of the club is exactly as advertised.

“(The goal) is to assist youth in the community in any way possible,” Cone said. “We just try to create a positive atmosphere as opposed to a negative one.”