Secret Santa at work

Published 5:07 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2021

By Mary Cole

Special to the Times

Twenty random, unsuspecting residents of Isle of Wight got an early Christmas gift this month.

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Founded in 1911, Optimist International is one of the oldest established service organizations in existence. This month, the local club turned over to Sheriff James Clarke a box of envelopes containing Christmas money for families with children in need of Christmas support. Sheriff Clarke and seven of his deputies participated in this fifth annual Secret Santa Event. A total of $2,000 was given to 20 unsuspecting residents of Isle of Wight selected at random. Every participating officer said that this mission was a welcome change from the usual day’s responsibilities.

The Optimists’ focus on children is health, education and scholarship. Each year, the local club raises funds for the national club’s support of Children’s Cancer Research. One year, a former Sundays at Four Terrific Teen, Brendon Elliott (now a professional violinist) gave a concert to benefit children’s cancer research. Through this International organization, the local members have helped to provide for blind and mentally challenged young people. Optimists support school children through a yearly essay contest, whose winners are awarded sizable scholarships at every increasing level of participation. There are also golf tournament opportunities for scholarship awards. The IW club sponsors art contests, and they have a special partnership with Sundays at Four to support the Terrific Teen Talent Recitals.

The BOB Fest in January each year is the Optimist Club at work raising money for all of the many things they do for children, and in May, the Optimists sponsor a 5K Fun Run in the Park. These races are organized by the IW Optimists and help to raise money to assist Isle of Wight residents in need.

To learn more about Optimists, get in touch with Sue Plummer at 757-681-0140. Plummer, with a friend from Norfolk, established the Optimist Club based in Smithfield. Mike Murphy is the club’s Isle of Wight president.