The importance of reminding young people of the sacrifices made by veterans forms an integral part of the focus for the Sooke Legion’s annual poppy campaign.
Tom Lott, chair of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 54’s poppy campaign, said engaging students in understanding the role veterans played in enabling Canadians to enjoy the freedoms is of paramount importance.
Lott, who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force for 23 years, has a strong personal connection to Remembrance Day. His father served in the Second World War, and his grandfather fought at Vimy Ridge
“Remembrance Day is ingrained in our family,” said Lott, the branch’s vice-president.
“In today’s world, we have generations that grow up without that personal connection. It’s a good thing that there hasn’t been any major world wars, but it’s important to remind everyone, especially young people, that the freedom we enjoy is because many people gave up all of their tomorrows so we can have freedom today. We need to give credit where credit’s due.”
Lott said it’s fortunate the Sooke Legion has a dedcate group of volunteers eager to step up not only during the annual poppy campaign, which runs from Oct. 27 until Nov. 10, but throughout the year.
Retired teachers Ron and Doris Gulmans and veterans from the community visit schools to explain the significance of Remembrance Day to students of all ages, Lott explained. An annual essay, poetry and poster initiative through the local library for students in elementary, middle and high schools is another way the Legion reaches a younger generation, Lott added. “Part of the oath for being a Legionnaire means that you will support the poppy campaign.”
More than 20 volunteers at the Sooke Legion have been busy mailing out envelopes for the Poppy Fund, which raised $25,000 last year.
“The town is growing, so we had 400 more mail-outs this year,” said Lott, a member of the branch’s executive since 1993, serving as chair of the poppy campaign for the past eight. “The amount we raise goes up about $1,000 a year, on average.” Another 20 will be involved in selling poppies and collecting donations at Shoppers Drug Mart, Western Foods, Home Hardware, Coast Capital, Village Foods and the Evergreen Mall provincial liquor store.
The money raised is earmarked for a variety of services to assist veterans. Some of those include providing service dogs for people dealing with PTSD, and Cockrell House in Colwood, which assists veterans facing difficulties adapting to civilian life. Funding also provides housing at Broadmead Lodge, a long-term care facility for veterans, medical support and equipment, and educational programs at BCIT.