Projects & Programs

The Manhattan Optimist Club is involved in a variety of fundraising and service projects in the Manhattan Kansas community throughout the year. Some are based on Optimist International programs and some are locally based. Most of the activities are youth-oriented service projects and fundraisers to support that work.

Some of the projects that our club sponsors, hosts, or are involved in are listed here:

Optimist Park

Our beloved Optimist Park is located at 317 Plymate Lane in Manhattan Kansas. It consists of 3 softball fields, 1 T-Ball field, 3 batting cages and 2 pitching areas. It also has 1 building housing restrooms and a softball equipment storage area plus a 2nd 2-story 2-car garage used for maintenance equipment and storage.

Optimist Christmas Tree Lot

Our major fund raiser -- the sale of Christmas trees each holiday season. This fund raiser is a long standing tradition in our community. Trees were first sold by the Manhattan Breakfast Optimist Club during the 1959 Christmas season and has been an annual event ever since. All of the profits from the sale of trees go directly back into the Manhattan Community. In 2008, the Tree Lot was moved to Optimist Park from Longs Park where it had been for many years.

Chili Crawl

The Chili Crawl takes place in Aggieville usually in October. Restaurants compete to see who has the best chili. Participants buy a ticket from the Optimist Club with all proceeds going to area youth programs. Participants visit all of the restaurants and after tasting the various Chili recipes vote on their favorite. Bragging rights and an award are presented to the restaurant with the best Chili. This fun event is hosted by Optimist Club members.

Get Tickets

Spaghetti Dinner

This fundraiser started new in 2009. Held at Pottorf Hall in March, we served over 500 meals. Each year the proceeds will be designated for a certain project or activity. In 2009, the proceeds went to the Optimist Park Improvement Project.


Introduced to the Manhattan area many years ago by the Manhattan Breakfast Optimist Club, it is now administered by the City of Manhattan. However, our Club provides the umpires and the monetary support for this program. Games are held at Optimist Park as soon as school ends and 2 games are played each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night for 8 weeks.

Hoop, Holler 'N Shoot

Free throw shooting contest. Annual youth promotion. We have over 600 5th grade students at Manhattan’s elementary school compete for the title of Manhattan’s best throw shooter.

See details and dates

Early Expressions Kids Art Fair

A new project started in 2009 by Jim Morrison, it gives USD 383 students an opportunity to have their art work judged by area artists. The top 100 pieces are then displayed at the KSU Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art and eventually sold.

Youth of the Month

Elementary age students from USD 383 are honored during the school year for their exemplary school and home ethics. Students are nominated by teachers at each school and honored at a weekly Optimist Club meeting usually attended by the student's parents, teachers and school principal. Besides being given a certificate and "goodie" box, and a picture.

Student of the Month

The Manhattan Optimist Club’s student of the month is meant to recognize Manhattan High School seniors that make a difference in their community through volunteerism and leadership activities that have a positive impact on MHS and/or the Manhattan community.

Girls Traveling Softball

The Manhattan Optimist Fastpitch Association, currently consisting of 9 competitive traveling softball teams, are a major benefactor of the Club and Optimist Park. These teams play in tournaments on the weekends and practice during the week. Teams are organized in age groups 8Under, 10U, 12U, 14U, 16U, and 18U. The Club also supports 2 months of indoor pitching and hitting practice for these teams during the winter months.

And Many Other Projects:

  • Manhattan Cross Country
  • Youth Tennis
  • Third Grade Basketball
  • Pawnee Mental Health Camp Stars
  • Manhattan Marlins
  • Manhattan Optimist Wrestling
  • Dr. Waddel Cancer Book
  • Boys & Girls Club
  • Boys State and Girls State
  • Pops Choir
  • Gold Orchestra
  • MHS High School Crime Stoppers
  • Youth of the Month
  • 4-H Lawn Mower Safety
  • 4-H Fair Fun Day
  • Respect For Law
  • Youth Appreciation
  • Ogden Friendship House
  • Boy Scout Camp Fund
  • Fire Safety Education
  • Shepherd's Crossing
  • Sunflower CASA
  • Youth Baseball & Softballl
  • Children's Theater/Art Center
  • Kaw Valley Special Rodeo
  • KSU Scholarship Fund