Thefts of poppy donation boxes means Canadian Legion branches lose out on thousands of dollars every year that should go to help veterans and their families with medical, housing, food and dental care costs.

A new, theft-proof box being tested at 50 Cochrane businesses is hoping to change that.

"Rather than the Band-Aid approach of fixing this, I thought we need to re-create the box," said creator Dan Kroffat.

"And then studies over the last year have told me the majority of boxes that were stolen were spontaneous thefts, so if we could eliminate spontaneous theft, that would handle one of the problems."

Nearly 40 poppy boxes were reported stolen in Calgary last year.

The new boxes look much like the old ones with a couple of important changes.

"It's a metal composite," said Kroffat.

"They connect to a wire which connects to the vendor's table so if somebody wanted to steal these boxes, they're so well connected to the table they would really have to pull on them hard or bring in wire snips or something like that. But that's premeditated theft, we're dealing with spontaneous theft."

Dave Usherwood, first vice-president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch #15 Cochrane, said the secure boxes will be placed in higher risk locations.

"For example a gas station or gas bar where the clerk has multi-tasks to do," he said.

"The clerk can't supervise the box 100 per cent of the time so we'll use the steel cable tether to secure the box, thereby securing the donations."

Volunteers will also collect the donations daily.

"We're optimistic that we'll show a positive result, ideally, no thefts," said Usherwood.

Dan Kroffat

To deter thefts, Dan Kroffat has created a metal poppy donation box that is tethered in place with a cable. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Having secure boxes should also increase consumer confidence, and hopefully donations, said Kroffat, 

"A box they felt might be stolen, people put less money in, maybe a loonie or twoonie makes them feel good about their contribution," he said.

"With a box that's secure, now people might put in $5 or $10."

Should the boxes deter theft, Kroffat said he'd like to see them used in towns and cities across the country.

"I've already been in discussion with a major Canadian sponsor who said to me, if this is successful in Cochrane, we would like to sponsor the boxes, thousands of them, across Canada," he said.

"We would put our name on the bottom and we would handle all the expenses, that way alleviating any costs to our local legions."

With files from Terri Trembath