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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Carlisle Castle used to launch poppy appeal

It was a beacon of light in the dark as an illuminated red poppy was shone upon the side of Carlisle Castle to mark the launch of the Poppy Appeal.

English Heritage believe it is the first time one of their buildings outside London has been used to help celebrate the annual fundraising event.

Last year the poppy symbol was projected onto the side of Dixons Chimney, at Shaddon Mill, but organisers this year wanted it in a more central location.

The official lighting-up event on Saturday night, marked the end of a day of activities to officially launch the Poppy Appeal in the region.

A specially-named Eddie Stobart truck – Poppy 90 – made a trip from the Midlands to Carlisle city centre to help raise the campaign’s profile.

Twelve teenagers from Carlisle joined poppy sellers, helping out the charity while earning hours for their Citizenship award.

The official launch happened to a cacophony of noise, attracting dozens of shoppers. They lined the High Street to watch a band lead a procession of special guests into the centre.

Jodie Vasquez, 18, proudly took the title of Poppy Princess for the third year running, insisting on walking the route despite being potentially days from a major operation.

The Currock teenager has Ehler’s-Danlos Syndrome, which means many of her internal organs have failed.

The RBL helped fund an extension to her home because Jodie’s step-father is ex-forces, and this work allowed her to come out of hospital.

“I just wanted to give back to them, to say thank you for how they’ve helped me and to raise awareness of the ways they help, even young people,” Jodie said.

She was followed by around 70 motorcyclists from the Royal British Legion Riders’ Branch, many of whom are from Cumbria.

Carlisle was one of 11 stops made by the riders on the Great Cumbria Poppy Ride over the weekend, to coincide with the region’s appeal launch. Among those completing the countywide bike ride was Monica Kershaw, from Bradford.

She had made the journey to Cumbria from her home town to ride as a pillion passenger with the motorcyclists in memory of her son Chris.

Private Chris Kershaw was one of six soldiers killed in Afghanistan in March this year. He was just 19.

Mrs Kershaw said: “When Chris was killed, I attended the funerals of all six who were killed in that truck. All the bikers turned up and they just adopted me and looked after me.”

She said the support from RBL has been “amazing” and has helped her keep going in the six months since her son died.

Major Jos Mark, from Carlisle branch of the RBL, said: “Launch events like this are very important, especially now we’ve got so many chaps coming back from Afghanistan who have been wounded – we need the money to support them.”

High Sheriff of Cumbria Juliet Westoll, Carlisle mayor David Wilson and city MP John Stevenson all showed up to give their support to the appeal.

The Poppy Appeal lasts for two weeks with various events before Remembrance Sunday on November 11.

Every penny raised goes directly to helping veterans and their families.

Opinion: page 12

eparsons@cngroup.co.uk

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