Kiwanis International is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
The Kiwanis was founded on Jan. 21, 1915, in Detroit, Michigan. On Nov. 1, 1916, The Kiwanis Club of Hamilton, Ontario, was chartered, making Kiwanis an international organization.
By 1916, a year after its founding, the Kiwanis had only three clubs with about 500 members; today the Kiwanis has nearly 600,000 members with clubs in 80 nations.
Those clubs and members address the unique concerns of their own areas, while tackling larger global issues. Members of the Kiwanis hold around 150,000 service projects, raise approximately $100 million and contribute more than six million hours of service each year.
As Kiwanis grew around the world, it grew locally as well. The first club in the New York District was founded in Rochester in 1916. The Queens West Division of the New York District currently has 17 clubs.
“Kiwanis, in general, is a lot of work and a commitment to the community, however, what it does is it challenges you…if you want to grow as an individual, it challenges you, it forces you to learn different things,” said JP DiTroia, Lieutenant Governor of Kiwanis Queens West.
In June 2010, at the 2010 international convention in Las Vegas, Kiwanis pledged to raise $110 million and joined UNICEF to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus from countries still affected by the disease. This cause is known as Project Eliminate.
Since Project Eliminate began, the Queens West Division has been steadfast in raising money for this cause through several fundraising events.
One such event was the fundraiser wedding they held for the Kiwanis mascot, Kiwally the Koala, where the club raised $5,400 for Project Eliminate. That money went to save over 3,000 babies, according to DiTroia.
“We have raised, our division, over $42,000 in four years,” DiTroia said of his club’s progress with Project Eliminate.
For donating $1,500, DiTroia received the Centennial Award and pin from the Kiwanis.
“I’m thrilled,” DiTroia said of being presented the Centennial Award. “It’s important to me, not just because I got the award, but the importance that I’m showing my fellow Kiwanians that it can be done. The reward in itself is saving the babies, but certainly to be recognized by your peers is the ultimate honor.”
The Queens West Division is also involved with many other organizations such as the Heartshare School, the Ronald McDonald House, among others, according to DiTroia.
“We raised money, $2,200, for pediatric Lyme disease,” DiTroia added.
The Kiwanis continues to add new members and grow both locally and internationally, helping those in need across the globe with its charitable donations.