Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (left) pins a poppy on Heather McTavish, president of the Army, Navy, Air Force Veterans’ Association Unit 376 as Jim McCaffery, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 26, looks on during Friday morning’s kick-off of the 2017 poppy campaign in Kelowna.—Alistair Waters/Capital News

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (left) pins a poppy on Heather McTavish, president of the Army, Navy, Air Force Veterans’ Association Unit 376 as Jim McCaffery, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 26, looks on during Friday morning’s kick-off of the 2017 poppy campaign in Kelowna.—Alistair Waters/Capital News

2017 poppy campaign kicks off

The appeal, which raises money to help veterans, will run until Remembrance Day

The 2017 poppy campaign has kicked off across the Central Okanagan.

The annual campaign, which raises money to help local veterans through sale of lapel poppies and acts as a form of remembrance of those who fought and gave their lives in war, has become a staple of Canadian life at this time of year.

The campaign will run until Remembrance Day (Nov. 11) and in Kelowna, organizers hope to surpass the $178,000 raised last year.

The money helps serve veterans in a number of different ways, with contributions going to programs that assist them locally. The Royal Canadian Legion, which runs the campaign in most areas of Kelowna except Rutland, where the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans’ Association runs the campaign, also donates a number of youth organizations, as well as Kelowna General Hospital and the local branch of the B.C. Cancer Foundation.

Poppy chairman John Cashin said part of the importance of the campaign is the money raised here stays in the community, with the exception of a small amount the local legion branch donates to help support a veterans’ hospital in the Lower Mainland.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, on hand Friday morning to receive one of the first poppies of the 2017 campaign, said given what is happening in the other parts of the world today, recognizing the sacrifice of the men and women who fought for freedom is as important now as it has ever been.

“With that in mind, I call on people in the community to volunteer to help with the poppy campaign as it shows you believe in diversity, inclusion and acceptance,” he said.

Heading into the campaign, organizers were concerned about a lack of volunteers for this year’s campaign. But Cashin said following media stories about the need Thursday, the phone has been ringing “off the hook” at the poppy campaign office.

The campaign kicked off in West Kelowna Thursday morning.

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