Kelowna residents dug deep into their pockets when the Portraits of Honour tour stopped by Wednesday afternoon.
“We were hoping to raise $5,000, but we brought in $5,500,” said Byron Robar, president of the Kelowna Kinsmen Club that hosted the local leg of the event.
“It was way more than we expected.”
The portraits of 157 Canadian casualties in the Afghanistan mission prompted a lot of emotion from the 400 men and women who filed by the display.
“What really got me was all the guys who came off the stairs with tears in their eyes,” he said.
“It’s understandable…it was about honouring the people who are keeping Canada the way it is, and their loss.”
Artist Dave Sopha thought of making the mural two and a half years ago when he was watching a news broadcast about Afghanistan.
“Then, Dec. 5, 2008, I read that 100 Canadian troops had been lost in Afghanistan…I was happy (my nephew) wasn’t one of them, but I realized I had 100 postage-sized faces looking at me and they all had someone missing them,” he told the crowd who gathered Wednesday.
On a canvas that stretches 10 feet tall by 40 feet wide, Sopha spent 6,500 hours recreating the faces of 155 Canadian soldiers, sailors and aircrew who had lost their lives in Afghanistan.
The mural is touring across Canada in a specialized mobile display trailer, and organizers expect to raise more than $1.5 million, which will go to the Military Families Fund.
That fund was established in April 2007, by Canada’s former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier, to assist families of the fallen and the thousands of military personnel who return home with physical or emotional injuries.
For more information, or to donate, go to the websites www.portraitsofhonour.ca or www.kincanada.ca.