Winter Park Optimist Club making an impact through recreational and charity programs


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Most people may be familiar with the Optimist Club of Winter Park for its recreational programs and annual Christmas tree lot, but you may not realize the impact the Wilmington group has on children throughout North Carolina and beyond.

The Optimist Club of Winter Park was established in 1954. According to the club’s website, the Wilmington group is part of a worldwide volunteer organization made up of more than 2,500 local clubs.

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“We have a very active boys and girls recreational softball program but there are a lot of community-service programs we take part in and a lot of money we raise for great charities,” said Optimist Club of Winter Park Board Member Chris Vargo.

Each November, the club sells Christmas trees at Hugh McRae Park and those proceeds go to fund a small portion of the club’s annual baseball and softball programs but that’s just a small part of their community outreach.

“In 2018, we made a donation of over $10,000 to the Boys and Girls Home of North Carolina at Lake Waccamaw,” Vargo said.

In addition to sponsoring one of the cottages at the Boys and Girls Home, in December, many of the children who participated in last year’s recreational programs had dinner with children who live there.

In April, the club hosts a childhood cancer baseball and softball tournament.

“This year is our fifth year of doing it and, so far, we donated over $125,000 to local families dealing with this tragedy,” Vargo said.

The Optimist Club of Winter Park also donates money to larger organizations helping children including The V Foundation and UNC Children’s Hospital.

The club also offers annual scholarships which are usually awarded to children who have participated in the program.

“It helps to defer the cost of education and shows our support of their continuing education,” Vargo said.

For individuals who want to learn more about the club or corporate groups interested in sponsorships, you can find more information at You’ll also find complete details about the club’s upcoming events.