Bike Rodeo – Social Distancing Edition

Due to COVID-19, our annual bike rodeo was cancelled for 2020. However, in the interest of bike safety for youngsters (as well as having a little fun), the Optimist Club of Waterloo North has decided to share the set up instruction we use when hosting our Bike Rodeo in the parking lot at Christ Lutheran Church in Waterloo.

Participants of our past rodeos know that before you begin, you need a helmet (which fits properly) and your bike needs to be in good running condition. So before you begin, please check out the Young Cyclist’s Guide from the Ministry of Transportation (MTO). The guide has information on bicycle equipment, riding tips and the rules of the road to keep you safe.

Are you ready? Is your helmet fitting properly? Have you ABC Quick Check’d your bike? (If you don’t know what this means, see section 3. before you go: check your bike in the Young Cyclist’s Guide.)

Download the instructions we use for the activities at our Bike Rodeo. Adapt each of the activities to use the space and materials you have available to you. Remember to stay safe with whatever you decide to do.

Additional cycling and bike safety resources:

We are pleased that McPhail’s Cycle & Sport in Waterloo has been an ongoing partner in our Bike Rodeo and has checked and tuned many of our young participants bikes over the years. As an essential business they have been busy keeping cyclists going. We are happy to share the checklist they use when getting bikes ready for their customers. You may find this useful if you want to do a more complete tuning of your bike.


Photos from a previous Bike Rodeo

2020 Club Contest Medalists

At our February club meeting this week, we wrapped up our 2019-2020 Essay and Oratorical contests. Essay contestants wrote on the topic “Is Optimism the Key to Achieving the Dreams you iMagine?” while the Oratorical contestants spoke for five minutes on the topic “Just iMagine a World without Boundaries.”

We applaud all competing students for their creativity and hard work. The winning Essay moves on to compete at the Midwestern Ontario District. The first and second place finishers in the Oratorical Contest participate in the Zone 7 (Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge) contest where two speakers will be chosen to compete at the District contest in May. (Scholarships are awarded at the District level and Oratorical Contest winners can move on to compete for additional scholarships regionally and internationally.)

Thank you to the principals, teachers, judges and parents for supporting these talented youth.

Nominations Open until March 12, 2020

Leaders! Let us help you recognize a youth in your group for the contribution they’ve made!

For over 25 years, the Waterloo North Optimists have been recognizing the positive impact youth have in our community.

Sponsors (group leaders, teachers, etc.) may nominate up to two youth who exhibit one or more of the following:

  • Outstanding Leadership
  • Courage in the face of adversity
  • Notable involvement in school activities while maintaining good grades
  • Generous support of neighbours, seniors or other youth
  • Other unselfish contributions to their community

Sponsors are asked to contribute a short biography that highlights the youth’s outstanding accomplishments and future goals. Formal recognition of the nominees will be made at a pizza dinner taking place on Tuesday March 24 starting at 6:45 pm. We encourage attendance by parents, sponsors, siblings and others who support these young achievers.

Nominations should be submitted by March 12. Send us an email to waterloo.north.optimist.club@gmail.com

One Youth on the Street is One Too Many

See the person first – then their circumstance.

See a young person. See a fellow human being. See someone who would like a smile.

This powerful perspective was given to us by Bonnie Kropf, Fund Developer of oneROOF Youth Services at our January dinner meeting.  oneROOF Youth Services helps youth, ages 12-25, in the K-W community who find themselves living on the street.  Youth can become part of the “street culture” for a variety of reasons – escaping a dysfunctional home situation (which may involve abuse – mental, physical, sexual); financial (e.g. a parent’s job loss); mental health issues; or as a result of a poor personal decision that they have made (remember – they are just kids who have not had positive role models, guidance, support, rules and consistency from early childhood on). 

oneROOF Youth Services provides support for the youth’s essential needs (food, clothing, shelter) and what can be even more important, their emotional needs – interacting without judgement, accepting the youth for who they are as a person not their situation and letting the youth know that they are not worthless – that they matter.  Support is also provided through prevention and diversion by assisting with housing and job searches.  The oneROOF Youth Services staff meet the youth where they are at in their journey, whether it is on the street, current living arrangements or at OneROOF Youth Services.

Our club is happy to provide financial help for oneROOF and our members will strive to see the person first when we encounter a young person living on the street.

For more information about oneROOF Youth Services and how you can help support their work (financial or other items), click here.

Supporting the youth of our community.

Christmas Toy Drive

Our Optimist club is happy to be partnering with the Salvation Army to once again staff a toy collection site at Conestoga Mall in Waterloo.

The teenager quietly dropping some loose change in the kettle. New parents starting an annual tradition with their newborn. Families sharing what they have. Individuals continuing a decades long practice. And representatives of teams and office groups who have organized their own collections. It warms our hearts to witness the generosity of our community.

Club members are accepting new, unwrapped gifts from noon to 6 pm on Saturdays up to Dec 21. Other local Optimist and Kin clubs will be there on Sundays (noon to 6 pm) and weeknights (5 to 9 pm).

The drop-off site in the mall is located outside Lindt Chocolates (near American Eagle and Indigo). Look for the big drop box decorated in red and green to look like a present.

Need gift ideas? Consider different age groups (infants, older children, pre-teens and teens). Perhaps Play-Doh, Games, Puzzles, Crafts, Lego, gift cards, bath bombs. Or stop by the drop-off site while it’s staffed and ask if there is a particular age group in need.

Need assistance? Waterloo Region residents needing Christmas Assistance can get more information from The Christmas Bureau by visiting www.christmashampers.ca or by calling 519-742-5860.

Sending Them Off Smiling!

September can set the tone for the entire school year, often including new clothes, new backpacks and new school supplies.  Unfortunately, not every family is so fortunate as to be able to provide these for their children. 

Twenty-five years ago, a small group of women decided to make a difference.  They provided a backpack filled with new clothes and school supplies to 27 students at one school.  Send ‘em Off Smiling (100% volunteer run) has since grown to helping 1,000 kids per year at schools throughout Waterloo Region. 

During the year, volunteers shop the sales to assemble a warehouse of clothes, backpacks and school supplies.  In the spring, teachers identify students who may benefit from receiving a filled backpack, and with the parent’s approval and input (such as sizes and colour preferences) volunteers prepare a personalized backpack.  Other volunteers deliver the backpacks in late August.  And the receiving students and their families — their smile says it all!

As a testament to the impact of this program, Send’em Off Smiling tells of former backpack recipients giving volunteer time and financial support to pay it forward to the next generations.  What a great community we live in!

How you can help

If you would like to help Send’em Off Smiling, you can volunteer your time, donate money, or participate in their “Shop and Drop” program.  Check out their website for more details.

A Story of Courage

We don’t develop courage by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.

Barbara De Angelis
Matthew and family with Optimist Club President Ross

Matthew is undeniably a very courageous teen and our Optimist Club was blessed to have him share his story with us at our September dinner meeting. He is a Childhood Cancer patient in the maintenance phase of his treatment. To demonstrate the steps of his journey over the past 2 ½ years, he pulled string after string of bravery beads out of a specially made wooden bowl. The strings just kept coming! Over 30 feet! Each bead represents some activity in his journey – every blood test, every treatment. The bowl is big and Matthew commented that “bowls are meant to be filled.”

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and Matthew and his parents gave us a glimpse into what it means to live the Childhood Cancer journey. Two 6 week stays in a hospital an hour away from home. Away from school. Away from work for parents. Not only is there the physical impact on the patient, there are emotional and financial impacts on the entire family. Fortunately, medical staff and hospitals around the globe share information and ongoing research which is improving outcomes.

Locally, there are supports to help families and patients cope, including:

Please  consider supporting one of the organizations helping Childhood Cancer patients in our community.  In honor of Matthew’s courage, our Optimist Club has made a donation to the Children’s Health Foundation to support the Music and Art Therapy programs.


If your group is youth focused and you would like to be a guest speaker at one of our dinner meetings, send us an email.

2019-2020 Contests Announced

Want to showcase your writing skills? Or your public speaking skills? Consider participating in one or both of our annual contests this school year. With some exceptions, you are welcome to participate every year — an excellent way to practice and develop your skills in a supportive, risk-free environment.

Contestants participate in a club-level contest and winners move on to compete at higher levels where scholarships are awarded to winners. (Click on links below for more details.)

“Is Optimism the Key to Achieving the Dreams you iMagine?”

“Just iMagine a World without Boundaries.”

We look forward to reading your essay or listening to your speech!

A Life Changing Experience

I was fortunate to be selected to represent my school at the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership conference, also known as HOBY.  If I could describe my experience in a few words, it would be inspiring, life changing, and incredibly fun. From the moment I arrived I was attacked with good vibes and lots of spirit.  Throughout the three days we did team building activities, community projects, had a dance, a talent show, and listened to some amazing motivational speakers. 

I left the seminar with many new friends, an inspired mind, and a determination to get involved in my school. My experience at HOBY has encouraged me to do things that without it, I may not have done. It left me feeling empowered and able to do anything.  It left me brave enough to apply for student council, which is now one of my favourite aspects of grade eleven. It’s taught me a lot about being a leader in life and at school. 

I’m so thankful to the Optimist Club for sponsoring HOBY.  It has touch the lives of so many people and has a rippling effect that continues to benefit communities long after the event.  It is unlike any other leadership program out there. The way I live my life would be very different if I hadn’t had this opportunity, and all the other HOBY alumni will tell you the same.  Please continue to sponsor this amazing event and inspire more and more students. Thank you, thank you, for investing in today’s youth, and tomorrow’s leaders. 

A HOBY 2017 participant (from Waterloo Region)


Click here for more information about HOBY.