The Hammond Optimist Club has 69 members and is a part of Zone 6 in the Northern region of the State of Indiana. Founded in 1937, the club initially comprised of 41 members. For over 75 years, the club has maintained a respectable group of local businessman from across Northwest Indiana and the Chicagoland area with one goal in mind; to bring out the best in our local youth.
We are known in Northwest Indiana as one of the top youth service clubs, donating over $1,200,000 since 1996 to 501(c) 3 organizations that support our area youth. These organizations include but are not limited to Hammond and Munster Robotics, St. Baldricks, Boys and Girls Clubs, Hammond YMCA, Boys and Girls Scouts, Purdue University Calumet's Challenger Center, and various area little league organizations. The Hammond Optimist Club hosts several fundraising events each year, with the marquee event being the Smelt Fry. Held every April at St. Michael's Ukrainian Hall, this event raises around $12,000. Other fundraising events include our Winter Mingle, Wing Night, Turkey Shoot, and Trivia Nights.
Our own local project is the Hammond Optimist Youth Sports Complex and our affiliation with Hammond Optimist Youth Sports. The complex and program is named for us due to the contributions to develop the park and our yearly support of the HOYS program. In the summer 2013 at Optimist Park we co-hosted the 2013 Cal Ripken 12U World Series with teams and fans coming from all corners of the United States. The 2013 World Series was a huge success, and in 2017 we once again co-hosted another Cal Ripken World Series, this time for 10U. This event was another success, with young talent from Hawaii to the Carolina's traveling to Hammond, Indiana both for the sweet corn and chance to be called the worlds best. The Hammond Optimist Youth Sports Complex is located at Columbia Ave. and River Dr. in South Hammond. The complex, which opened in 2005, has 5 irrigated fields with electronic scoring and lights for nighttime play. There are 2 concession stands offering a variety of food items and treats. A baseball themed playground serves children of all ages.
A large part of the Hammond Optimist Clubs history includes the former clubhouse that was located off 80/94 and Kennedy Ave. For several decades, memories were made among the members and their families at various functions & outings including the annual Turkey Shoot, Fishing Derby, and Vegas& Bingo nights, to name a few. In 1995, the difficult decision was made to sell the clubhouse and land to what would become the Indiana Welcome Center. While many members struggled at first at the idea of a club without a clubhouse, the proceeds from that sale have left us in a financially capable position to support the area youth and the club is as strong as ever.
In the summer of 2017, over 20 years after selling their original clubhouse, the Hammond Optimist Club came across an opportunity to once again have a place to call home. After much debate, the club voted in favor of purchasing a building on Kennedy Ave. in Hammond, just up the street from their original home. The clubhouse acquisition did not affect the foundation's ability to provide significant annual donations to the local youth organizations while providing the membership a central location for club meetings, fundraisers, and social events. In addition, it added another positive presence to Hessville's business district that struggled with commercial vacancy in the past but has seen rejuvenated development as of recent. Overall, this move bolstered the Hammond Optimist Club's ability to maintain and attract quality membership, consequently strengthening the clubs overall mission of supporting area youth