La Jolla Sunrise Rotary at 35: Group celebrates service to others, growth among themselves


Before most people’s coffee has fully kicked in on Thursday mornings, members of the La Jolla Sunrise Rotary Club have already been up, had breakfast, fulfilled their Rotarian meeting duties, heard “Ted-Talk style” lectures from experts in various industries, explored different service opportunities and are ready for the day. As the name would suggest, the Sunrise Rotary Club meets at 6:58 a.m. Thursdays at The Shores Hotel and recently marked the start of its 35th year in operation. The time, by the way, was a deliberate choice, because most other Rotary Clubs that met in the mornings started meetings at 7 a.m. and the La Jolla Sunrise Rotary wanted to be the earliest.

An anniversary celebration was held June 28, during which present and past members (including some founding members) gathered to celebrate the club’s accomplishments and contributions since its inception in 1984.

“It was actually La Jolla Rotary Club proper that wanted to expand, and thought it would be better to have a morning club,” said inaugural Sunrise Rotary Club president George Dewhurst. “They were the ones instrumental in starting the club. It was a new thing to have the club meet in the morning … but I think there are a lot of benefits in that you can have your meeting, chat with friends and then off to work they go. It was beneficial because you could plan your day a little easier. Plus some members that miss a meeting at the La Jolla Rotary Club can have a make-up meeting with us.” In addition to being its first president, Dewhurst was president in 2000-2001 before moving to Oregon.

The group started with 12 members in February 1984, but in order to be a legitimate club, 24 members are required. They reached that goal (plus two) by June of that same year, which marks the technical founding of the Club. At first, the Club met in what is now the Empress Hotel, but moved to the Grande Colonial Hotel for a few years after that.

When the Grande Colonial underwent a renovation in the late 1990s, the Club moved to the La Jolla Country Club before settling in its current home of The Shores Hotel.

“What has kept it together is the group is like a family,” Dewhurst said. “The group hasn’t changed much since its formation, it’s just a fun, big family. We’re very tight.”

As a service organization, the group has had local and international impacts over the last three decades.

Locally, the board has historically been involved in the expansion and enhancement of the La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival. At least 10 times, a Sunrise Rotarian served as Santa Claus.

Dewhurst said the Parade used to end on Prospect at Wall Street, but the group spearheaded the expansion to the La Jolla Rec Center and gifted the community with the Star Pine on the Rec Center lawn that now serves as the community tree, the ceremonial lighting of which is a staple of the Holiday Festival.

But the reach of the Club also goes beyond the 92037.

Outgoing president Brian Zimmerman explained the group raised $750,000 a decade ago to help renovate La Jolla’s Fire Station 13; holds Guinness World records in two charity swims to raise money for polio eradication; often volunteers to rebuild houses and facilities at San Pasqual Academy (a residential education campus designed for foster teens in Escondido); raises funds for Gift of Life, which provides heart surgeries for children in Uganda, Mexico, Jamaica and Haiti; participates in the Hospital Art program to paint art on hospital walls to brighten patients’ days; partners with Thousand Smiles to provide cleft palate repair surgeries to children; and annually participates in the Litchfield Swim.

The swim celebrates the life of La Jolla High School teacher Bob Litchfield and raises funds for San Pasqual Academy. It is coming up for 6:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 6 in front of the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, 2000 Spindrift Drive.

“How the energy of a very small group of people can truly — over 35 years — impact thousands of people worldwide is truly awe inspiring on a personal level and on a monetary level,” Zimmerman said.

“Our members have so much energy they put into the community. We also have members that created or are part of organizations that help causes around the world. Of the things I’m most proud of, the top of the list is our members.”

Now 39 members strong (45 if you count honorary members), the group will be led in the coming year by La Jolla native and incoming president Kilma Lattin. He said he joined the group because the group is a little more “free-spirited” and “laid back” than some other Rotary groups, but still focuses on friendship and the Rotary motto “Service Above Self.”

Lattin said: “I believe friendship coupled with service to others is a powerful combination. We are blessed to have both. Rotary International has six areas of focus, they are: supporting education, helping mothers and children, providing clean water and sanitation, supporting local economies, fighting disease, and promoting peace.

“My goal as president is to keep our membership focused on Rotary’s six areas of service while building goodwill and better friendships within the Club. Thirty-five years is a milestone. We are in a great position to be mindful of our legacy while we focus on our future.”

Of the 35 year milestone, Dewhurst added: “I’m really pleased, every time I come down and visit, it feels like I never left. It’s been that way since it started.

“I’m thrilled that our Club is still around and charter members still attend meetings. Just thrilled. I’m very excited to see Rotary continuing and continuing so strong.”

—The group is actively recruiting members, and meets 6:58 a.m. Thursdays at the La Jolla Shores Hotel, 8110 Camino del Oro.

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