By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Advance
For a century, the poppy has served as a reminder of the brutality of war.
According to the official Canadian Legion website, the idea to use the poppy as a fundraiser for the support of war veterans was conceived by Anna Guérin in 1921, a French national.
She was inspired by Canadian John McCrae’s famous poem In Flanders Fields. The poem, which used vivid imagery of the synonymous red flower intermingled with the graves of the war-dead, was written during the First World War, and continues to be recited to this day.
In 1921, the Great War Veterans Association, which would eventually become the Legion of today, adopted the poppy as the official symbol of remembrance.
Over the decades, the campaign has continued as a major fundraiser for the Legion’s Poppy Fund, a program designed to make life easier for veterans and their families.
Traditionally, the Poppy Campaign runs from the last Friday of October until Nov. 11, Remembrance Day. The Castor Legion (#119) looks after the Poppy Campaign for all east-central Alberta. In Castor, poppies are available at 26 separate locations, plus two more in Halkirk.
“Poppy money goes into our poppy fund,” said Poppy Campaign Organizer Sue Goodkey.
“It’s an account just for poppy money. (The Legion is) very strict about what (we) can use that money for.”
In addition to raising funds through the poppies, the Castor Legion also raises money every year through the business sponsorship of wreaths.
Funds raised can be used for purchasing medically necessary items such as bed alarms, blood-pressure cuffs, or other similar items.
“The money is used for the comfort of veterans and their families,” said Goodkey.
In addition to the support of veterans, money from the fund also goes towards supporting the Castor, Coronation, and Consort Hospitals and senior’s homes.
In an average year, the poppy campaign will raise around $5000 for the Poppy Fund, which stays within east central Alberta for the use of veterans and their families.
However, fundraising isn’t all that the Legion focuses on leading up to Remembrance Day. Another focus is on raising awareness and education.
“The Legion runs a poster/essay contest every year,” said Castor Legion President Lyn Holloway.
“There are six schools, who all compete against themselves. There’s prizes in each school.”
Schools given information packages for the 2021 contest include Castor’s Gus Wetter School, Theresetta Catholic School, Coronation School, Veteran School, Consort School, and Altario School.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Castor Legion will not be hosting an in-person event at the Castor Community Hall, however, a contingent of soldiers will be coming from Canadian Forces Base Wainright and marching as a colour guard from the Legion to the cenotaph beginning at around 10:40 a.m. on Nov. 11, and Last Post and a small service will be conducted beginning at 11 a.m.
Anyone interested in becoming a Legion member is welcome to join, and meetings are held the third Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m.