Optimist Club finds new ways to help Downey’s kids

DOWNEY – Jennifer had dreamed all her life about going to a four-year college, but when she got accepted to Cal State Long Beach, she and her family couldn’t pay the tuition and she would have had to attend a community college without getting help. Although Mark worked 30 hours per week while excelling at school during the day, all the money he earned went to support his mom and five siblings.  Since he had no computer, he had to go to the library just to do his schoolwork, and yet he still earned straight A’s.

His friend Julia was embarrassed by the clean but shopworn and outdated outfits she wore to school, because all her clothes came from thrift stores.  She often fantasized about having some nice new clothes so that she could dress like her friends.

Her young neighbor Bobby wanted to be a Boy Scout, but the cost of participating was beyond his family’s meager financial resources.

“The Optimist Club of Downey was able to help each of these remarkably worthy young people get just what they needed to make a difference in their lives. Anyone who works with our local youth would tell you that the financial challenges faced by these kids and their families are typical of the real-world challenges faced every day by the children of Downey,” said Optimist Club of Downey President Tom Burney.  “That’s why all the service clubs of Downey are working so hard to raise money to help these very deserving kids.”


“We have an epidemic of broken dreams in our community,” Tom said.  “We are doing everything we can to be the difference makers for kids who need a hand up to make their dreams come true. That’s why the Optimist Club of Downey has quadrupled its annual financial commitment to local youth over the last three years.”

The ability to help great kids like Jennifer, Mark, Julia and Bobby with the things that can make a difference in their lives is largely dependent upon a single event.  “Our 25th Annual Charity Golf Tournament, which will be held April 28 at Rio Hondo Golf Club, is the main fundraiser for our organization,” Tom said.

“We all receive many charitable appeals,” Tom said.  “We’re asking our friends to consider that without the community’s support of this event, we won’t be able to continue to expand our efforts to positively impact the lives of our local youth.”

The Optimist golf event is known as the Tom Watts Memorial Tournament, held in memory of “Del” D’Allesandro.  “These two dedicated leaders made the tournament a success for many, many years, and today we carry on in remembrance of them as we raise funds to help children in need,” Tom said.



This year the Optimist Club is introducing five new ways that the community can sponsor a child in addition to playing in the golf tournament.

“We know that not everyone is a golfer, but we know that everyone wants to support deserving kids in our community, “ Tom said.  “That’s why are giving people a chance to help in many new ways.  For example, a donation of $50 will sponsor a child to attend the Optimist Club’s Annual Easter Egg Hunt and Holiday Lunch at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center,” he said.

Other new opportunities to sponsor a child in connection with the tournament include:

•For $100, making it possible for a child in need to take their PSAT, SAT or Advanced Placement Test

•For $250, sponsoring a local boy scout or girl scout for a year

•For $500, helping the Optimist Club fund its efforts on behalf of kids at the annual Pumpkin Patch, which provides a safe and fun Halloween experience for more than 7,000 local children and their families each year

•For $1,000, making possible a child’s college education by funding a 2014 Optimist Club Scholarship, which will be presented in the name of the donor

“The good news is that all donations to our golf tournament are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law, because we are one of the few Optimist Clubs in the nation that has its own federal 501©(3) nonprofit designation,” Tom said.



“This year, for the first time in the history of the tournament, members of the Warren High School Humanitarian Society will help us raise funds in the community and assist us on tournament day,” Tom said.

“We are very excited to help the Optimists raise more money this year because we know so many of our fellow students that need help with things that really matter in their lives,” said Humanitarian Society President Debora Jeong.

Tom asked the community to support the noble efforts of the Humanitarian Society members.  “These wonderful teenagers are taking their time to help their fellow students, so please be generous in your support of their efforts,” Tom said. “The Humanitarian Society members see the work we do each and every day in the community, and they are helping out so we can do even more.”



Some of the Optimist Club of Downey’s charitable work on behalf of youth includes:

•Sponsoring an annual scholarship program for deserving students graduating from     Downey’s high schools

•Supporting children with disabilities throughout the year at Downey’s world-renowned Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center

•Partnering with the Warren High School Humanitarian Society, whose more than 300 members work tirelessly on local charitable projects throughout the year

•Sponsoring the annual “Pumpkin Patch” at Apollo Park in Downey, which provides a safe and fun Halloween for thousands of local kids and their families.  Last Halloween, more than 7,000 guests received free hot dogs, cotton candy, popcorn, donuts, sodas and helium balloons at what has become Downey’s largest event

• Holding Essay and Oratorical Contests for local high school students

• Making substantial annual gifts to Arc of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, Downey Family YMCA, local Boy Scout troops, and Darrell Jackson’s Ten-Twenty Club

“We’re very proud of the impact we’re having in helping children who need a hand up to reach their dreams,” Tom said.  “We also know that we couldn’t do it without the support of our fellow community members, who play such a pivotal role in our efforts on behalf of kids in need.  That’s why we’re appealing to the hearts of everyone who cares about kids to support our golf tournament and make a difference for the wonderful children in the city we love.”

For more information, contact Tom Burney at trburney@yahoo.com or (562) 644-4913, or call Steve Allen at (562) 862-6664.



Published: March 20, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 49