Volunteers remake thousands of wreaths for veterans' graves at Ottawa cemetery
It was quite the sight at the National Military Cemetery, as people gathered to lay wreaths on the tombstones of those who served in the Canadian Armed Forces.
It came less than a week after 3,000 wreaths destined for Beechwood Cemetery were stolen.
Organizers from Wreaths Across Canada say with help from volunteers, they were able to remake wreaths and move ahead with Sunday’s ceremony.
At the National Military Cemetery at Beechwood in Ottawa's east end, handcrafted wreaths lay in front of the tombstones of those who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Taking a moment to pay her respects was Jan Ayers.
"I have friends who are buried here sadly and I think it's something we should do to honour veterans,” said Ayers, a fifth generation military serving member.
Ayers joined other military families on Sunday in a ceremony recognizing veterans and those who served our country before placing a personalized wreath on her father’s tombstone.
"We go from Remembrance Day to Christmas and we want Wreaths Across Canada to be a buffer to say, 'Let's celebrate, let's commemorate.'" said Cyndi Mills, the President of Wreaths Across Canada.
It was an emotional day for many who attended, according to Mills, the event was almost ruined.
"We were notified Monday morning they had been stolen," said Mills.
About 3,000 wreaths were taken from a rural area just outside of Maxville, Ont. last weekend, a devastating blow to the group. This year marked its return after a pause in 2017.
“That’s over half of what we commissioned to be made," said Mills. However, in the days that followed, the community banded together.
Mills said more than a hundred Ottawa residents volunteered their time in an effort to remake between 3,000 and 4,000 wreaths for Sunday’s ceremony.
"They showed us what to do the first thing here," said Andrei Lavoie. "Christmas music was on and away we go.”
"It’s a lot of work," said Manon Lovoie. "We are hoping we finish in time.”
By Sunday afternoon, the wreaths were ready to be handed out to the large crowd gathering around the monument.
"I think it’s very touching,” said one woman who was at the cemetery laying wreaths. "Because coming out here is always emotional.”
Wreaths Across Canada is already planning for next year’s ceremony, aiming to meet its original goal of 6,000 wreaths to cover the entire National Military Cemetery.
"It brought such a good community together and I'm grateful for that," said Ayers. "The meaning behind Christmas is giving and paying back and this is a big way to do it.”