Every day is Remembrance Day

At Sunnybrook veterans are honoured 365 days a year

By Ellen Ashton-Haiste

When residents at Sunnybrook Veterans Centre wake up on November 11, they will look out their windows to see a garden of red maple leaves on a white background, an emotional tribute to their wartime efforts.

The previous evening, volunteers will have planted thousands of Canadian flags on the lawns surrounding the Toronto longterm-care centre for veterans of the Second World War and the Korean War. The flags can be purchased for a donation, with proceeds supporting the centre’s Grant A Wish program, dedicated to fulfilling specific desires for residents. Wishes range from a family dinner out to tickets for a sporting event or even an out-of-town excursion perhaps to the resident’s hometown or to Ottawa for the annual tulip festival.

The Operation Raise A Flag campaign was launched in 2010 with a modest goal of selling 5,000 flags, a number that escalated to 30,000 in 2015. Later in the morning, residents and family plus staff and volunteers will attend a special service in Warrior’s Hall, the central gathering space, with representatives from Veterans Affairs Canada, the Royal Canadian Legion and local government in attendance. They then gather outside at the historic Sunnybrook Cenotaph on Bayview Avenue for the laying of the memorial wreaths.

Remembrance Day is the date to officially honour and remember Canada’s wartime heroes. But that’s a priority every day at Canada’s largest veterans care facility. It offers extensive creative arts and recreation programs that are both therapeutic and fun. There’s music therapy and horticultural therapy, where participants can get their hands in the dirt, working on raised flower beds. A unique element at the Sunnybrook Centre is a portrait studio and photography centre, offering photo-related activities and showcasing residents’ work.

Toronto Public Library operates a small branch within the centre and there is a games room, a cafeteria and the Blythwood Social Club pub, staffed by Legion volunteers. Entertainment is offered 365 days a year in the Warrior’s Hall. There’s also plenty of opportunity to get out and engage with the community. Bus trips to restaurants, shopping, entertainment events and local Legion branches are regular occurrences.

The piéce de resistance of outings, eagerly anticipated by many residents, is the annual summer camp on Muskoka’s Lake Joseph, with campfires, fishing, boating and more.

Sunnybrook Veterans Centre offers longterm-care services including physical, mental and cognitive support and palliative care. The Dorothy Macham Home is an innovative 10-bed unit dealing with challenging behaviours due to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The Centre has the capacity to care for 474 veteran residents.

Eligibility is determined by contacting Veterans Affairs Canada at 866-522-2122.