AN annual Poppy Appeal to raise funds for war heroes is set to kick off early this year in a bid to rake in even more cash than usual.
Sian Cameron has already taken delivery of 65,000 poppies, and plans to start selling them through the 227 outlets across Hartlepool up to a week before the official launch of the nationwide campaign on October 27.
She told the Mail that the early start would hopefully help her beat her total for a third year running since taking over from her late father Ian, who had devoted seven years to raising cash for the Royal British Legion before his sudden death in August 2010.
Sian originally stepped in “as a one-off” to ensure her dad’s good work was continued and that the Legion received donations from Hartlepool to add to the millions of pounds it collects each year across the country.
But she quickly decided to take on the role full-time in his memory, first breaking his all-time record and then beating her own total by more than £1,700 last year when she collected almost £46,000.
Her hard work and dedication earned her the title of 2012 Fundraiser of the Year at the Pride of Hartlepool awards.
Sian, 30, who works full-time as a management secretary for the Billingham-based training organisation NETA, has to fit the annual poppy campaign around her job.
She said: “It takes me at least two days to distribute the poppies and collecting tins around the shops and other places that sell them, but my boss is great and lets me take half days and work flexibly.
“So if I spot a business or organisation that isn’t on my list of sellers I’m able to pop in and ask if they’ll take a box or two and let me know if they’re running out so I can get more stock to them.
“I also made a point of ordering the poppies as soon as they became available to beat the rush, so I may as well get a head start and put them on sale as soon as possible.
“The official launch date for the nationwide poppy appeal is October 27, but I’m planning to ensure that poppies are available in Hartlepool well before then.
“The support I get from the outlets around the town is fantastic and, between them all, we’ve got the town and the surrounding villages covered. But I’m always on the lookout for new outlets for the poppies to help sell as many as possible, so if there’s anywhere that doesn’t currently sell poppies but would like to, I’d urge them to get in touch and I’ll make sure they get some.”
As well as the thousands of standard poppies, Sian has also taken delivery of the full range of poppy products, including 10,000 stick-on poppies which are popular in schools and care homes because they don’t need pins.
There are also car poppies, supermarket trolley coins and clothing zip covers, as well as wooden crosses, giant-sized silk poppies and wreaths.
Sian will be supported in her quest to keep beating the sales figures in and around Hartlepool by a range of volunteers including local Army Cadets who will begin their three-week stint helping out with sales of the poppies in the Middleton Grange shopping centre on Saturday, October 27.
At the other end of the age range, Sian will be joined by war veterans from the Royal British Legion who meet weekly at Ye Olde Durhams club in the town and turn out each year to help.
Sian says she is keen to hear from other organisations in the town who would like to get involved and urged them to contact her on 07787570601.