MP Eric Duncan receives his Poppy to launch the campaign. Tinkess photo

When we think of October, people typically think of Halloween and pumpkins, but the last Friday in October is also the start of the Legion’s annual poppy campaign, which runs until Remembrance Day, Nov. 11.

In 2020, the last year for which reported figures are available, 11.5 million poppies were distributed, and nearly $15 million dollars was distributed to support veterans and their families (October 2020-October 2021).

The campaign is very much a local effort with two goals, those being to support local veterans and their families and to help ensure that Canadians “Never forget.”

Shawn Doolan is the poppy committee chairperson at Legion Branch 108 in Winchester, a role he has held since retiring from the military and joining the Legion five years ago. He says the funds raised are extremely important.

“I was told recently about people living in their cars. People are still facing challenges,” said Doolan, “and that is what the Poppy Campaign is all about: helping veterans. Every penny we clear goes to helping veterans, who gave voluntarily to serve Canada.”

Last year, for example, branch 108 raised a total of $11,101.70 through poppy boxes and donations. The money was distributed in several ways: $150 in hospital comforts that went directly to local veterans who had some sort of surgical procedure and were recovering at home, $1,000 in bursaries to descendants of veterans, $6,600 to the Perley-Rideau Veterans Centre in Ottawa, and the balance going to different groups, including a small amount to local cadets.

“That’s a heck of an achievement,” said Doolan, “and as you can see, all the money we bring in, goes out. We don’t sit on it, and I think that’s a good thing.

“I particularly want to point out that we had huge challenges in the past couple of years due to Covid, we all did, and the fact that we did this during Covid is that much more amazing and I only hope that this year we can be that much more advanced.”

Doolan also took time to mention a new initiative that seems to be gaining momentum not only in Winchester, but in other communities across Eastern Ontario. Banners with photographs of local veterans, both past and present are being displayed to help identify and recognize those who have served, and those who continue to do so.

“One thing that you will see more and more of is the Honour the Veterans banners that are up in this town,” said Doolan. “These are wonderful ideas; living and past veterans living in this community, and I hope anybody in this area gets the opportunity to point, if they see a family name that they recognize and bring it to the attention of the people they are travelling with on these streets in our town.”

It’s a very small gesture, so little is required to recognize those who gave so much.