Legion president Toni McKelvie pins a poppy on Pelham Mayor Marvin Junkin. DON RICKERS

The Remembrance Day Poppy Campaign is one of the Royal Canadian Legion’s most visible and important programs, raising money to directly assist veterans in need, as well as provide funding for medical equipment and research.

Last Friday, Branch 613-Talbot Trail, which operates out of 141 Highway 20 East, had a modest ceremony to kick off the two-week program. The branch has about 250 members. Dave Chambers, of Chamber’s Insurance in Fonthill, was on hand to provide a $350 cheque as the event sponsor this year.

From left, Poppy Campaign sponsor Dave Chambers, Legion members Lou Gautier and Rick Hatt, Mayor Marvin Junkin, and Legion President Toni McKelvie.

Rick Hatt, a Legion member who is overseeing the poppy campaign, said that COVID has taken a big chunk out of their coffers, given that rentals have been lost, but that,“We’re still managing to pay our bills each month.”

He expects they may bring in a little less than the $5000 which the poppy campaign usually raises, but 140 boxes have been distributed to local businesses, and Legion members remain optimistic. As a precaution, there will be no active canvassing by Legion members, veterans, or army cadets outside businesses.

This year, the public may also make contributions by using e-transfer to [email protected] Under the “comments” section, insert “Poppy Fund donation.”

There will be only one public Remembrance Day ceremony this year, which will occur next Wednesday, November 11, starting at 10:45 AM., in Veterans Park on Legion grounds. It will also look different, given that social distancing will limit access at the event. However, Hatt said that the ceremony will be live-streamed courtesy of Niagara College, so that citizens and especially older veterans with health and mobility issues will still be able to view the event. The livestream link is https://livestream.com/accounts/15502389/legion613

The Poppy Campaign draws its inspiration from Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a doctor serving with the Canadian Artillery in France and Belgium during WW1. In May 1915, after presiding over the funeral of a friend and fellow soldier who perished in the Second Battle of Ypres, McCrae famously noted that the small red flowers flourished around gravesites of the war dead. He immortalized this phenomenon in his poem, In Flanders Fields, which to this day remains a prominent symbol of remembrance in Commonwealth countries, and in the USA. McCrae himself did not survive the conflict.

The Royal Canadian Legion suggests that the poppy be worn on the left lapel of a garment, and as close to the heart as possible.