By Mike Anderson

You could feel the love in the room as the Optimist Club of Keswick celebrated 75 years of community service at the Link on Saturday, June 8.

Residents packed the main hall to express their appreciation for the club, which has enriched the lives of thousands of children over the years with its many programs, toy drives, and support for local sports teams.

President Sheril Thomson estimates the club, which has just 24 members, reaches about 3,500 kids a season through its programs.

“They’re learning skills, not just educational skills, but leadership skills and the importance of teamwork,” Thomson said.

“Through volunteering, they also learn that everybody is part of a family collective.”

Thomson pretends to cut cake with scissors

The fun-filled event featured youth appreciation awards, vendors, a kid’s zone with a bouncy castle, BBQ’d hot dogs, delicious cake and much more.

But the highlight was the tightly contested bed races held behind the Link.

This was the second year for the bed races, which featured local teams from York Regional Police (District 3), Georgina Roller Derby, Nurses Next Door, Georgina Ice Junior Hockey Club, Premier North Windows & Doors, and the Sutton Kinettes.

Teams had to push one member on the bed past the finish line, but if they let go of the bed at any point, they faced disqualification.

While most teams dressed for the race, the YRP team was in full uniform, with each officer carrying nearly 30 pounds of gear. But that didn’t stop them from a bit of trash-talking.

“We’re going to win because we work well as a team. It’s what we’ve trained for; we’ve been pushing a bed for four years now,” joked one YRP constable.

“The Roller Derby team looks pretty fierce. But the nurses don’t look so tough. I think we got them.”

Joking aside, YRP was happy to be part of an event celebrating the Optimist Club.

“The Optimist Club does great things for the community and for us. So being here is important,” the constable said.

YRP takes a slight lead over Georgina Roller Derby

In the end, Georgina Ice was the fastest team, defending its title from last year, and the Sutton Kinettes received the award for best-decorated team.

While it was all great fun, an important underlying message was that kids need to be engaged and involved in our community.

“Any service group that brings kids out of their homes into the community plays a critical role,” Thomson said.

“Instead of sitting behind a computer, kids connect with people they may never meet. And then they learn respect, responsibility, and how to be empathetic to others.”

“One of the biggest things about being an Optimist is you get to watch kids grow, and that’s what makes us optimists.”