VICTORIA -- What started out as a way to help Canadian veterans stay safe and healthy in care homes has now turned into a nationwide must-have item.

The Royal Canadian Legion’s “Poppy Masks” have become a big hit with the general public, with nearly 40,000 sold across the country so far.

Proceeds from the sale of each face mask go towards the Royal Canadian Legion, which supports veterans and their families across the country.

Designed by the Legion’s national head office and made in Canada, the masks are a great way to help out local Legion branches that are struggling to stay open, says Angus Stanfield, a member of the Trafalgar Pro Patria Branch No. 292 in Victoria and chair of the Victoria Remembrance Day Committee Poppy Fund.

“It’s an opportunity for the branches to make just a little bit of revenue – that was the idea behind it and right now, it’s a real struggle to just even stay open,” he said.

Stanfield, a long-time member of the Canadian Legion, hopes that the masks will be a complement to the annual Poppy Fund campaign which is about to get underway. He also hopes that face coverings will remind people of the sacrifices veterans and current military personnel have made.

All Legion branches across the country are struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Stanfield says.

“In almost the 100 years since the Legion has been in existence, we’ve never asked for help. But these are extreme times and without help it’s going to be really, really tough,” he said.

You can help support the Legions by buying a mask, joining a branch or donating to the organization.

The masks are described as comfortable, good quality and come in two sizes, small and large.

The Poppy Masks are so popular that they are temporarily out of stock online. More will be available online here starting Sept. 28 at a price of $10. 

Stanfield says that some masks are still available locally at the Trafalgar Pro Patria Branch No. 292, located at 411 Gorge Rd. East, in Victoria. The Legion asks that you call ahead and check for availability at the branch’s office before arriving at 250-384-7814.

To find out more about Royal Canadian Legion and what it does to support Canadian veterans, visit its website here