Poppies spread cheer

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Nine-year-old Charlotte McLeod, who underwent treatment for seven months at Starship Hospital last year, and her mum Hayley, support The Poppy Flight in Ashburton.

People young and old turned out to the Ashburton Airport this week to support the Poppy Flight project.

The project, part of a nationwide tour, was supporting the work of the Returned and Services Association (RSA), Starship Foundation and New Zealand Warbirds.

Around 50 volunteers knitted or crocheted 700 poppies and stars, in all sizes and styles, for two artworks, which arrived in Ashburton on Tuesday from Rangiora.

Once completed, one piece of artwork is destined for Starship Hospital in Auckland and the other for the national RSA headquarters in Wellington in time for Anzac Day.

Other poppies and stars were available for a donation on the day.

RSA president Merv Brenton, Ashburton Aviation Museum president Warren Janett and volunteer co-ordinator Dellwyn Moylan all spoke of the project and were thankful for the support of those involved.

Nine-year-old Charlotte McLeod, who underwent treatment for seven months at Starship Hospital last year, placed a poppy on the artwork destined for the hospital at the completion of the project.

She was followed by poppy tributes from deputy mayor Liz McMillan, councillor Rodger Letham, Hakatere Marae’s Tania Reuben and from each of the knitters and crocheters present who did poppies for the project.

Pilot Keith Pickford, of Ashburton, flew the leg from Rangiora to Ashburton Airport, and then on to Rangitata Island where pilot Russell Brodie was due to fly to Timaru, and then fellow Ashburton pilot Reon Blake was due to fly the leg from Timaru to Oamaru.

Mr Pickford was flying his friend’s 1942 Auster Mark 5 plane – tail number TJ-272 – which was used as spotter/observer plane in World War II.

It’s a British plane with an American Lycoming motor, which made it more user friendly, he said.

An Auster was the first plane Mr Pickford ever flew in as a youngster in the 1950s. He was seven years old when he took his first flight in one at Ashburton.

He had his first flight in a glider in 1966 and in 1994 got his pilot’s licence.

It’s a very good cause supporting Starship Hospital, the RSA and Warbirds, he said.

-By Toni Williams