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Kiwanis Club of Orillia marks 100 years with major goal

The 100th Anniversary Gala will be held on June 1st, 2024

Helping youth in their community has always been top of mind for the Kiwanis Club of Orillia, and their legacy has lasted 100 years.

They’re currently readying for a gala to mark the anniversary, and former club president Bruce Waite is proud of the work they’ve done for so many years.

“I remember I was President during our 50th year. Personally, it’s really nice to be part of the committee organizing the 100th. Right now service clubs are challenged to get members, and we are 48 members strong. We just make sure our work is relevant to our mission,” said Waite.

The club focuses on making the physical, emotional and social lives of local youth better, and they partner with local programs and create their own to make it possible.

“We help kids – That’s our number one priority. We are always looking for new ways to do so, but we have many long-standing programs too. We do a lot of work with 4H, including helping with the awards banquet, and we’re invited each summer to a farm and they demonstrate how to show cattle. It’s so interesting to see city kids watching what life on a rural farm is about,” he said.

“We hold our annual Kiwanis Music Festival as well. It’s still recovering from COVID, but even during that time kids sent presentations in and were judged. We want to get back over 1,000 participants.”

They’ve donated over $500,000 to the Orillia Soldiers Memorial Hospital’s Children’s Paediatric Unit’s many needs over the years, $7,500 to Youth Equine Therapy at Hospice Orillia, and $40,000 to the YMCA expansion, among a myriad of other donations, large and small.

Most of the Club funds are raised through the annual Kiwanis Mammoth Auction, held each November, which can net over $70,000. each year.

Kiwanians also do a large amount of safety work in the area, including fire safety and road safety with the Kiwanis Fire Safety Trailer and Kiwanis Children’s Safety Village.

“The trailer goes to public schools, and inside is a home. There are simulations of fires with smoke, and children are taught fire safety. They learn to deal with stove fires, get on the floor for oxygen, and more. Some youth have ended up in house fires after this program and have known what to do,” he said.

“Another big thing is the Children’s Safety Village. We set up for a week in the gymnasium of different schools, and police officers and Ontario hydro staff are on-hand. There are little mini golf-carts that are battery-operated. Students drive around in them on simulated roads, and are taught road safety. They learn about things to be careful for in a town, such as what to do at train tracks and other things.”

Another program Waite loves is the Terrific Kids program, one he says really helps the confidence of recipients.

“We recognize 250 students in public schools. It isn’t necessarily about those who get top marks – It’s about students who made a difference in the classroom. They get a book with their name inscribed, a certificate, and their guardian gets a “Parents of a Terrific Kid” bumper sticker,” he said.

The Kiwanis Skate Board Park on the waterfront was a project of the Club in 1999 and continues to be used constantly by local youtho f all levels of skill.

The club was formed on April 15th, 1924, and as they celebrate 100 years of service, Waite is excited to look back at what they’ve done, and the gala will help celebrate their achievement and work they continue to do.

“We see so much support for the work we do. Years ago we were very involved with the Easter Seals, and we would drive kids to camp and take them out fishing with members of the Orillia Fish & Game Club. It’s wonderful to see kids trying new things and getting new experiences,” he said.

“Or we would deliver Christmas baskets of food to families. We’d go in, sit down with parents and talk to them about challenges and how we can help their kids. Seeing the effect you have with the programs you support and things you do is so motivating for our club members.”

With a consistent, unbridled focus on helping children, June 1st, 2024, marks a time for Kiwanis Club of Orillia to celebrate themselves a little bit. The formal event at the Casino-Rama Resort will feature cocktails, entertainment, dancing, a four-course prime rib dinner and more.

“This big celebration will be special. We’ll have pictures and videos from activities over the years. We will highlight our programs and give out some awards. But there’s a specific highlight for me. Years ago, our Easter Seals Committee would have a ‘Timmy’ ambassador each year, which was a local child who faced special challenges. One year it was Kevin Collins, who went on to be chosen as the Ontario Timmy, and today Kevin is the President and CEO of Easter Seals Ontario,” said Waite.

“Kevin is our keynote speaker for the Gala, and he’s a huge example of the impact Kiwanis can have on one child. Having him involved with our Club 45 years ago, and seeing where he is now is astounding. He’s worked so hard, he’s a delightful man, and a perfect CEO for the Easter Seals.”

While the gala is to celebrate a milestone and achievements, it’s the work they do in the community that gives Kiwanis members that warm feeling.

“There’s something special about seeing the results of our work, and seeing local youth succeed. I speak for all members when I say that. It will be amazing to celebrate the success that Kiwanians have had in supporting our youth these past 100 years.” he said.

For more information on the June 1st, 2024 100th Anniversary Gala or to get tickets, visit them online here.