Longtime Miami Lakes Optimist Club member Jim Hamilton has dedicated most of his life to helping kids excel in sports and in the classroom. Since joining the organization in 1973, Hamilton has held every position, including president, vice president, board member, commissioner and coach, while helping the club reach its goals by offering kids a chance to play sports, while their parents and other spectators cheer for them and improve their academics.
He also was the catalyst for increasing membership and volunteers while organizing fund-raisers that landed many sponsors to keep the 43-year-old organization running gracefully. Hamilton is indefatigable in his devotion to his volunteer work, and his lifelong dedication earned him the highest honor in recreation and sports.
Last month, Hamilton received the South Florida Optimist International District of the Year Award, recognizing his achievements in the Miami Lakes community and became only the second person at the Optimist Club to win the accolade.
Current Governor of South Florida Optimist International, Jack McCall, was the first and it was only fitting that he present Hamilton the award during the annual Florida Optimist International Convention in Marco Island. McCall and Hamilton have been working side-by-side since they joined the organization 40 years ago.
Hamilton, who once served as Lt. Governor for South Florida Optimist International, which covers Sarasota and Marco Island on the north, to Key West on the south, said he was humbled following the award presentation.
“It’s a pleasure to be a member of the Optimist Club because I enjoy working with the kids,” he said. “All of us at the Optimist Club volunteer because we love helping kids reach their goals. It’s nice to be recognized.”
Hamilton said the most rewarding part of volunteering for four decades is watching kids who passed through the club come back and volunteer or coach the younger generation of children.
“When you coached them and they come back, it means you made a difference in their lives,” he said. “And that’s rewarding enough.”
Growing up in Kansas, Hamilton, owner of Miami Lakes Sports Shop on Main Street, said he never got the chance to thank his coach for helping him develop his skills. But the experience rubbed off on him that he wanted to help kids find their niche in sports and give them pointers on how to maintain good grades in school and encourage them to attend college.
As an incentive, each year the Optimist Club awards the Roland Gomez Scholarship to one college-bound female and male student who demonstrate excellence in school, sports and community service. McCall said he was honored to present Hamilton with the award because he deserves it.
“It was a thrill to do something special,” McCall said. “He made the Optimist Club what it is today.”
But both Hamilton and McCall give much of the credit to their wives, who allowed them to spend a lot of time developing the organization and helping kids for so many years. “
Pat McCall and Rosalyn Hamilton are the silent unsung heroes in the success of the Optimist Club,” Hamilton said. “We get the awards but our wives are the biggest supporters of the club,” said McCall. “They allow us to do so many things for the good of kids.”