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Coronavirus: Okanagan legions bracing for tough poppy campaign due to pandemic

Click to play video 'Drastic changes this year to both the annual  poppy campaign and Remembrance Day ceremonies due to the pandemic have Okanagan legions concerned' Drastic changes this year to both the annual poppy campaign and Remembrance Day ceremonies due to the pandemic have Okanagan legions concerned
Drastic changes this year to both the annual poppy campaign and Remembrance Day ceremonies due to the pandemic have Okanagan legions concerned – Oct 13, 2020

For decades now, the end of October has marked the beginning of the Legion’s annual poppy campaign.

Not only is it a way to remember service men and women killed in conflict but also a way to help support veterans financially.

But this year, there’s a big change to the yearly tradition, one that’s expected to have a huge impact.

Read more: B.C. prepares for a ‘minimalist’ Remembrance Day amid COVID-19 concerns

“Oh yes, there’s no doubt in my mind that it will have a big impact,” said John Cashin, poppy chairman with the Kelowna branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.

The pandemic-related change this year prevents volunteers and Legion members from selling face-to-face poppies in front of stores like they typically do.

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This means that Legions will rely solely on poppy trays that will be distributed among businesses.

Last year, in the Kelowna area, the poppy campaign netted some $200,000. This year, local organizers are bracing for a lot less.

“I would be glad to make $100,000 this year. Whatever we make over that would be gravy,” Cashin told Global News.

Click to play video 'What do Remembrance Day poppy donations fund?' What do Remembrance Day poppy donations fund?
What do Remembrance Day poppy donations fund? – Nov 14, 2019

Cashin said the Kelowna branch saw this coming and curbed spending over the last few months to have enough for the coming year to help support veterans.

But the expected decrease in donations this year will have ramifications across the community.

“It’s the money that we give out to care places like JoeAnna’s house…and the Cancer Clinic and things like that, which will feel the impact,” Cashin said.

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Read more: Remembrance Day planners scrambling as coronavirus limits traditional ceremonies

In addition to poppies, many Legions have now started selling face masks with the Remembrance Day flower front and centre, which can be picked up at local branches.

The poppy campaign won’t be the only Remembrance Day tradition that will look different this year — so will the actual ceremonies on Nov. 11.

The large ceremonies that usually take place at cenotaphs around the Okanagan will not happen.

This year’s ceremonies will be kept small and will only include war veterans, Legion officials, members of the honour guard and a few dignitaries.

Click to play video 'Why do you wear a poppy?' Why do you wear a poppy?
Why do you wear a poppy? – Nov 11, 2019

“They are going to change drastically. For example, there will be no parade, cadets cannot participate and we will be allowed a maximum of 50 people at the cenotaph,” Cashin said.

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He added that even that is subject to change.

Plans are underway to stream local ceremonies online to allow people to virtually take part.

The poppy campaign kicks off on Oct. 30.

Cashin said while he’s concerned, he’s also optimistic that Kelowna residents will support the cause by picking up poppies when they see the trays placed throughout local businesses.

“Kelowna people are so generous,” he said. “We’re hoping they come through for us.”