EDMONTON — A simple tradition that began with one Edmonton family has now become a coast-to-coast movement aiming to place a poppy on the grave of every Canadian who has served in the country’s armed forces.
The No Stone Left Alone Memorial Foundation hosted remembrance ceremonies in 18 communities across the country this year, from Victoria to Halifax.
The ceremony at Beechmount Cemetery in Edmonton, where it all began five years ago, was livestreamed across Canada on GlobalNews.ca Tuesday morning, and shown in the classrooms of more than 676,000 students across Alberta.
Global News anchor — and Honourary Lt.-Col. of the 15th Field Ambulance — Gord Steinke emceed the Beechmount ceremony.
The project is a personal passion for foundation president Maureen Bianchini-Purvis. The daughter of two Second World War veterans, she promised her dying mother that she would not be forgotten on Remembrance Day. Year after year, she visited her mother’s grave at Beechmount, laying a poppy in remembrance, and continuing the tradition with her own children.
When her daughters noticed the many graves in the Field of Honour that lay bare, the idea for No Stone Left Alone was born.
Bianchini-Purvis tears up when asked how her mother would feel about the ceremonies that have now spread to seven provinces.
“I just know she would be beyond proud, because it was important to her, as a soldier, to not be forgotten.”
WATCH: ‘No Stone Left Alone’ is a national program that began right here in Edmonton. Randall Purvis and Keely Yates tell us more about the event and its meaning.
Today, the non-profit organization works with the military, volunteer committees, students and Alberta educators.
Students, typically in junior high, place the poppies, and learn about the sacrifices made by Canada’s veterans, and those who still serve today.
Since the first ceremony in 2011, the concept spread across Edmonton, then across Alberta, and now across the country, with ceremonies happening this year for the first time in eastern Canada, in Montreal, Halifax, and Oromocto, N.B.
By Remembrance Day, 5,400 students will have laid 23,000 poppies in 83 cemeteries. It’s a reach made possible by more than 5,500 volunteers.
Bianchini-Purvis is proud of the way Canadians have embraced the cause.
“From coming out here with just the family you see here today, for years, and just placing our poppies, and now to see that no stone is left alone, is just incredibly powerful, and it’s wonderful.”
You can learn more about No Stone Left Alone, and ceremonies in other locations, here.
WATCH: The 2015 No Stone Left Alone ceremony in Beechmount cemetery in Edmonton on Nov. 10.