The Airdrie branch of the Royal Canadian Legion kicked off its 2019 poppy campaign Oct. 16, with members of City council, representatives from the RCMP and Banff-Airdrie MP Blake Richards being the first to don the symbols of remembrance upon their lapels.
The annual campaign will run until Remembrance Day, Nov. 11. Sixteen stores and locations throughout the city will collect donations, with the proceeds supporting local veterans, community programs, bursaries, the Airdrie Food Bank and more.
Last year's campaign raised more than $96,000, according to Bill Drummond, the legion's past president, who added all the money stays within the city.
"The poppy campaign is important in that we collect money to help these veterans – give them support when they need it, food when they need it and, if needed, give them money when they need it," he said. "As far as we're concerned, it's important we support the people who have given their time and effort to join the army, air force, or navy to defend this country."
Another component of the poppy campaign, Drummond added, are presentations from legion members to local schools.
"Normally, on Nov. 8, we go and give a talk to schools about veterans and what we've done as veterans," he said. "If we don't tell the kids the mistakes we made, maybe the kids will make the same mistakes and we'll have another war. That's why we do what we do."
In addition to the poppy campaign, this year included a creative addition – on Oct. 13, members of the legion painted dozens of the red flowers on the sidewalk in front of the legion building.
"We thought if we painted some poppies on the sidewalk heading towards the legion, it might draw some people in," said branch president Bob McNevin. "Some people really love it – we had some kids who came down from the school and didn't want to walk on it, to show their respect, but we said, 'No, you can walk on it.'"
McNevin said the legion encourages Airdrie residents who have lost family members to war, or who have family members as veterans, to write that person's name next to one of the poppies with a permanent marker.
"They're welcome to do that," he said.