Artist drawn to fallen heros

Dave Sopha adds detail to the portrait of Master Corporal Kristal Giesebrecht, who died on June 26, 2010. - Photo submitted
Dave Sopha adds detail to the portrait of Master Corporal Kristal Giesebrecht, who died on June 26, 2010.
— image credit: Photo submitted

The Kin Clubs of the southern interior recently announced that Penticton has been selected as one of the stops on the Portraits of Honour National Tour.

Members are planning a public ceremony that will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Gyro Park.

The Portraits of Honour mural stretches 10 feet tall by 40 feet wide and features the faces of the 155 Canadian soldiers, sailors and aircrew who have lost their lives in Afghanistan.

The mural is touring across Canada in a specialized mobile display trailer, and organizers expect to raise over $1.5 million which will go to the Military Families Fund, established in April 2007 by former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier, to assist families of the fallen and the thousands of military personnel who return home with physical or emotional injuries.

The mural has taken Kinsmen volunteer artist Dave Sopha, who will be attending the Tuesday event, over 6,500 hours to paint.

Sopha has been airbrushing murals and painting for the past 38 years, with his career as an artist taking off after opening an art studio in Toronto and being commissioned to airbrush murals on vans and motorcycles.

A volunteer at heart, Sopha joined the Kinsmen Club of Preston in 1983.

In 2008, Sopha decided to dedicate the next few years of his life honouring every fallen soldier, sailor and aircrew through the creation of a mural after he heard the news that three more soldiers had died, bringing the total of fatalities at the time to 100.

“There are so many brave men and women who proudly wear the uniform of the Canadian Forces and so many strong families who remain behind to support them,” said Frederik Numsen, outgoing deputy governor for Kin Canada in the Southern Interior of B.C.

“Unfortunately, they sometimes pay the ultimate price and their loved one doesn’t return home. This mural is for them and their families. I hope that our region will come out in large numbers to remember, honour and celebrate our Canadian Forces.”

Numsen hopes to raise $10,000 when the tour stops in Penticton but said that no matter what the number ends up being, it’s still a worthwhile cause.

Viewing will be free of charge but spectators are encouraged to wear red and make a small cash donation to help cover the cost of bringing the mural to Penticton, with remaining funds going to the Military Families Fund.

As well, a giant banner will be available for signing by donation at the Downtown Penticton Community Market on Saturday morning.

Kin Canada is the largest Canadian association of community service clubs with over 500 clubs and 7,000 volunteers from coast to coast, contributing more than $1 billion to Canadian communities since the association was founded in 1920.

Working together, members enhance the quality of life in their communities by promoting service, fellowship, positive values and national pride.

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