A Gravenhurst High School (GHS) teacher led her students in a Remembrance Day fundraiser that collected over $1,200 for four local branches of the Royal Canadian Legion.
Art teacher Aimée Bulloch thought she’d test the idea of selling ceramic poppies at the Empty Bowls fundraising event in September, offering a few of them at the ticket table for the event. The pieces sold in the first few minutes and she got a full sheet of orders for more. With just over a month until Remembrance Day, she decided to make the fundraiser happen. Her ceramics class as well as her Grade 11 and 12 art classes made poppies out of clay to be sold for $5 each. Bulloch and her students thought the fundraiser was going to be something small, but it quickly gained traction and they ended up selling about 250 poppies, raising a total of $1,236. Bulloch plans to deliver cheques to the Huntsville, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge and Bala legions along with a note from her students.
“It was a very short time with a lot of hard work and a lot of love was put into the sale of these,” Bulloch said. “We tried to really honour the poppy and stay true to the colours and the original design. We wanted to make sure that everybody knew the legion was getting 100 per cent of the profits and that this was purely a labour of love put in by our students.”
The creation of the ceramic poppies was also shared with Japanese students visiting through Muskoka Language International (MLI). The visiting students were paired with GHS students to make the clay flowers while learning about the significance of poppies and Remembrance Day. Beyond the student contributions, the rest of the community got involved as well.
“It’s been a Gravenhurst High School initiative, not even just our students,” Bulloch said. “A lot of other teachers bring their classes down during lunch time to glaze and to volunteer their time. Kids have been coming in at lunch and after school for volunteer hours to glaze poppies.”
Bulloch advertised the fundraiser online, and word spread like wildfire. A number of poppies were snatched up by the Board of Education, she said, and various businesses wanted to buy them for their employees. She also had a friend ask to have his poppy personalized with his grandfather’s army number before buying 16 of them for his family members.
Bulloch had no idea the poppies would take off like they did, but not only were people interested, some even donated more money than the cost of the poppy. It also gave her the chance to talk to her students about the poppy and what it symbolizes as well as the importance of fundraising and community support.
Giving back is an important part of life for Bulloch as well as a value passed down to her from her father. Last year, she raised $1,000 for a new birthing bed at Huntsville hospital and she recently took over the Empty Bowls event after starting her new role at GHS this fall. Using art to promote good causes is what she’s meant to do, Bulloch said, and Grade 11 student Sierra Thomson agrees.
While the fundraiser came up short notice, Thomson said she’s proud of the number of poppies they produced and the amount of passion that went into it.
“I’m very involved in art and to see people who normally wouldn’t think about doing art very often getting involved with something like this was amazing to see,” she said.
Thomson said she’s excited to see how the Remembrance Day fundraiser does in future years as it becomes an annual tradition. She’s also looking forward to seeing what else Bulloch brings to the school in the future.
“They’re couldn’t have been anyone better to lead it,” Thomson said. “She’s very inspiring and she’s very motivated. She motivates all of us, really.”