When Emma and Sophia Petkau gave their donation to the poppy fund through Doug Matthews, they gave him one of their handmade crosses. (Jessica Peters/ The Progress)

Gift to Chilliwack veteran brings tear to his eye

Young sisters give handmade gift to veteran, along with donation for the poppy fund

A handmade gift from two local children brought a tear to a veteran’s eye last week, downtown Chilliwack.

Sisters Emma and Sophia Petkau showed up at the Safeway location where Doug Matthews was collecting for the poppy fund. What they brought him, he says, brightened his day and he wanted to share the story with others.

It was a brown paper cross made from card stock, with two poppies made from egg cartons and painted red. A button is lovingly placed in the centre of each poppy.

And the wonderful part is, they didn’t just make one.

“These two girls came up and said they sold these door-to-door, to friend and neighbours,” he says. “I was in full uniform, and they came up and gave me over $40.”

And while the donations to the poppy fund are always appreciated, it was the heartfelt effort that went into the donation that really moved him. The girls are only three and five years old.

“This was the girls’ idea alone,” Matthews said. “It really made me so emotional.”

It’s not the first time a child’s donation has made a shift of selling poppies worthwhile, he says.

“About five years ago, I was selling poppies in Walmart and a little boy came up and said ‘can I buy my mommy a poppy?’”

The boy thoughtfully poured his handful of pennies and loose change into the donation kettle, and when he got his poppy he ran to give it to his mother. A few minutes later, the boy returned with a problem; he wanted his own poppy but had no more money to give.

“I told him if you can tell me why we wear poppies, I’ll give you one,” Matthews recalls. To that, the boy proudly said: “We wear them for the dead soldiers.”

Matthews has held onto that moment, and will cherish this most recent encounter. And while many wonder if the younger generations will remember Canada’s soldiers from wars past, he says he is seeing many children and teenagers taking part in remembrance.

“That brought a tear to my eye, and so did this,” he says.

Matthews is almost 80 years old, and was born and raised in Chilliwack. He was an Air Cadet here, and went on to work as a cook for the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1955 through 1973. He served in Germany, Cyprus, Sardenia, Resolute Bay, Greenland and across Canada.

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