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Christine and Stuart Blais finish a shift collecting donations for the Poppy Fund
Christine and Stuart Blais finish a shift collecting donations for the Poppy Fund

Heard Up North: Poppy Drive volunteers Christine and Stuart Blais

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This is poppy time across Canada. The bright red flower is widely worn leading into Remembrance Day ceremonies, held in many communities on November 11th.

Besides symbolizing support for military service and sacrifice, the humble stick pin generates millions of dollars in donations to aid veterans.

For today's Heard Up North Lucy Martin dropped by a grocery store in Barrhaven, Ontario, where Christine and Stuart Blais were collecting for the cause.

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At a table set up amid the clatter of a busy supermarket, Christine Blais talks about why she's a poppy drive volunteer.

"We're both ex-military. We've had many postings. We've got six children, they're all born in different places, 'cause we've been all over! Goose Bay, Labrador. We've been out to Yorkton, Saskatchewan. France, Germany. I was Air Force and I was in the medical branch."

Her husband, Stuart Blais, explains where the funds go.

"The donations that we get for poppies, is given to a special fund, which is called the Poppy Fund, and it is not used for any other purpose than for bursaries, people in dire straights, that don't have money, and so on."

And what do people say, when they come by and pick up a poppy?

Christine Blais responed they're, "Just happy to be able to donate. A lot of them say 'I've lost my poppy!   Those pins don't work!' "

Stuart Blais continued, "A lot of them thank us for our service. The elderly, they're mostly either Vets themselves, or families of a Vet. We get good response from them, and even the school children."

While symbolic support is visible, Christine Blais wants that to go further. "I think they, I think they could show a bit more respect for the Vet, you know? Because we have some that are struggling right now. They came back from Afghanistan, and they need treatment. And I don't think they're getting it. Our Department of Veteran's Affairs, are not doing their job."

Is a one-day event just too little?

Christine Blais nodded, "I think we should remember them all year, you know?"

The question took Staurt back in time. "When I transferred from the Navy to the Air Force, I – my group all went to Korea. Three of them were killed on the ship HMCS Iroquois."

Eyes watering, he falls silent.

Christine recalls Stuart being asked after November " 'How come you're still wearing your poppy?' He said 'Well, I remember them all year.' "

 

 

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