Last month, armed with a new smile, Rick Lewis stood at his post outside the liquor store in East Trail to distribute iconic red poppy lapel pins as he had for the last two decades.
“It (poppy campaign) did very well this year,” he said, “We don’t stay out as late as we used to but there has always been a good response in Trail.”
The poppy campaign yielded a healthy crop of donations, almost $20,000, for the Royal Canadian Legion, Trail Branch 11, confirmed Glenda Reilly, office administrator at the branch.
“We had a record number of volunteers that assisted with poppy distribution,” she said. “And the Remembrance Day service was very well attended.” Reilly said, adding, “About 170 kids were at the church after the service and many returned to the branch for a full day of entertainment and hot stew.”
For 20 years Lewis has weathered the November cold to distribute poppies in Trail.
Lewis entered the armed forces right out of high school in 1959 and has been a Legion member since that time.
He also knows first hand how funds raised through the annual poppy and wreath campaign benefit Legion members in need and the Greater Trail community as a whole.
Three years ago, the Trail man was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his jaw and had to make several trips to Vancouver for treatment including reconstructive surgery.
“It was quite a strain especially on my wife because she lived down there while I was in the hospital,” said Lewis. “Once we came back things went fine but then I had another big cost.”
Surgeons removed a portion of Lewis’s jaw and rebuilt it with a bone from his leg, which subsequently left him without teeth.
“They had to make a special set of false teeth to compensate for the fact that I have a new jaw bone,” he explained. “My dentist did a marvellous and high tech job but the price was extremely high.”
That’s when the Trail Legion Branch 11 jumped in to give Lewis a hand by paying for his new set of teeth by using a portion of funds from the 2012 poppy and wreath campaign.
“They gave me a hand and paid for the dental work I had done in Trail,” said Lewis. “Not only did I get new teeth but the help also took away the anxiety I had about how I was going to pay for it all.”
Last year, the Trail branch raised more than $20,000 that in part, was dispersed locally into seven bursaries to grandchildren of veterans and a donation made to the Trail air cadet program.
In addition, the Legion donated proceeds to a the veterans transition program, the commonwealth ex-servicemen league, a veteran’s recertification program, and to assist with the purchase of an exoskeleton machine for a veteran severely injured in Afghanistan.