NORWICH — Norwich American Legion Post 189 Auxiliary members Marilyn Neuland and Marge Root visited The Place on Tuesday to teach the children at the KIDS Program the history and meaning behind red poppies.
Neuland and Root explained that during World War I soldiers traveled to France to fight in the war, and fallen soldiers were buried in Flanders Field, where poppies grew abundantly.
"Some of the soldiers didn’t come home, and they were buried in graves over there in France, and in the graves these beautiful flowers, poppies, grew," said Neuland.
"After World War I, the poppy flourished over in Europe. That means they grew in the field, acres and acres of them. In 1918, a woman named Monica Mitchell asked Americans to always wear a poppy flower in memory of the people that died in the war," said Root. "The poppy is worn as a symbol of the sacrifice made by the service members that were fallen."
Root also explained how the Legion Auxiliary started the poppy program in 1921, using the symbolism of the poppy to honor veterans and raise money for the American Legion and the services they provide.
"Veterans and volunteers handcraft the poppies to distribute to exchange for donations. You can’t sell them, but you can hand them out and get donations," she said. "The donations help the veterans, the military, and it helps their families, too."
After sharing the history behind the poppies, Root and Neuland handed out coloring books made by the American Legion Auxiliary containing information about the history and symbolism of poppies, as well as the poem "In Flanders Fields," written by Colonel John McCrae after World War I to honor the soldiers lost in battle.
Children in The Place's KIDS Program will have a week to color in the book and select one page to enter into the Auxiliary coloring contest. The first place winner will receive $5, the second place winner will receive $3, and the rest of the kids will receive $1.
Neuland said she and other members of the Norwich American Legion Auxiliary wanted to go to The Place to teach the kids about what the poppies represent, as many don't know the history behind them.
There are also many holidays honoring veterans in May, making it the perfect time to discuss poppies. The month as a whole is Poppy Month, Memorial Day is May 30, and National Poppy Day falls on the last Friday of the month before Memorial Day, with this year's Poppy Day being May 27.
"We realized our youth doesn’t know a lot about poppies, and we just thought this is a great starting point," said Neuland. "Let's come here and see if the kids enjoy it, and then maybe we can spread our wings and do other things."