The Royal Canadian Legion is a lot more than an old people’s gathering place featuring bingo and beer, or a place to go on Remembrance Day — and the 495 members of the local branch just wish the public understood how much it gives back.
“The overall impression that we have is that the general public does not really know what the legion does or why it exists,” says Brenda Thompson, director of communications at Branch 52 in Kamloops.
“The legion is not just a watering hole for vets; we contribute to the well-being, culture and history of the community . . . Many of the older vets are passing away, so the focus of most legions is on the younger generation of veterans.”
Since 2007, Branch 52 has given away $469,000 in the name of charity. Of that, $230,000 came from the annual poppy campaign held every year in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, which is staffed by legion volunteers and cadets.
“Cadets are actively involved in the poppy campaign in stores and shopping malls,” said Bill Mitchell, a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and the cadet liaison officer for Branch 52.
“The education and training these young people receive at cadet halls around the country will help them develop into responsible citizens that Canada can be proud of.”
Poppy fund donations — valued at $47,000 in 2012 — are organized in three categories: veterans’ assistance, special use expenditures and bursaries.
Last year, $17,000 went to university students with military affiliation — students like 19-year-old Nicholas Saxby.
The TRU business student received a $1,000 bursary due to his past membership in the Rocky Mountain Rangers Cadet Corp.
“The legion is a great organization,” he says. “The veterans I have met are amazing to talk to and learn from.”
“They give so much to cadets. A lot of the money goes to really essential things like gas and special training equipment.”
Last year the legion gave out $85,000 in total, which is made up from money donated to the poppy fund and from gaming grants.
The flexibility of the gaming fund means it can be given to a variety of causes, be it $300 to the SPCA or $1,000 to New Life Mission.