ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — The Notre Dame High School boy’s lacrosse team adopted a new tradition ahead of Memorial Day. On May 29, the team put carnations on the headstones of every veteran at the Fitzsimmons Cemetery across from the school.
Kristie Crossley, the wife of Notre Dame’s lacrosse head coach, said her uncle has been doing this for decades. His name for this tradition? Operation Poppy.
“It started with just a few 100 carnations and he would take them over onto local cemeteries and put a carnation on every headstone of a veteran,” said Crossley. “In 10 years it has grown to about 4000 carnations. Each year he puts them out. He has a whole team of people that come together from the [American] Legion to the VFW and family members.”
After seeing her uncle doing this, Crossley wanted to bring it to Elmira.
“This year we asked if we could move it down here to the Southern Tier and he said absolutely,” said Crossley. “He would love it if we would take this tradition and move it down.”
Crossley also had a special nickname for those who helped.
“So I gathered together my super secret squirrels for Operation Poppy and had the lacrosse team meet up with us this morning so that we could put them out,” said Crossley. “We have several carnations left. What we’ll do is my daughter and I will go around to the rest of the cemeteries in the area and we’ll distribute the rest of them there.”
The team is happy to expand a heartwarming tradition.
“This would make my uncle so, so happy,” said Crossley. “Every year my uncle picks up his flowers in Rush. He heads right to Rush and hands out the first red carnation to my great grandfather, who was a World War II glider pilot. He’s got great stories about it. If uncle Brian could see this today, he would be just overjoyed with the group of boys that came together to help us put them out.”