Yukon beaders churn out 'fireweed hero pins' for front-line workers

Kyla Popadynec started making beaded fireweed pins as a hobby. Now hundreds of Yukoners are in on it as a way to say thanks.

'I didn't expect it to take off the way it did,' Dawson City resident says

Yukoner Cheryl McLean made these beaded fireweed pins to show support for frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Cheryl McLean)

It started in Dawson City, Yukon, with a simple idea to say thank you: make a pin for Yukoners working on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now, beaders from Old Crow to Watson Lake are getting in on the action.

Kyla Popadynec, an administrative assistant at the public health office in Dawson, got the idea at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the reality of what was happening began to sink in.

"I just became very aware of what my nurses were doing in terms of processes and getting things in place, and how much busier they were," Popadynec said. "And how the public maybe wasn't seeing that piece of health — how busy people in the back were."

"I just thought it would be a kind of a fun idea."

100 pins and counting

Volunteers have made more than 100 of the pins in Dawson alone. Each one is unique, but they're all variations on the same theme: the fireweed flower, which is the Yukon's official floral emblem.

A Facebook group Popadynec started now has more than 350 members. Some of the members post photos of pins they're working on. Others are healthcare workers or first responders posing with pins they've been given. 

Brendan Hanley, Yukon's chief medical officer of health, wears a beaded fireweed pin at a news conference in Whitehorse, Yukon, on April 20, 2020. (Government of Yukon/Alistair Maitland)

Even Brendan Hanley, Yukon's chief medical officer of health, has been spotted wearing a pin during his regular news conferences.

The Facebook group has numerous patterns and designs people can use to get started. Popadynec said for her, beading has offered her something to focus on during her downtime.

"I didn't expect it to take off the way it did," Popadynec said. "I'm amazed and incredibly grateful for [the] people who just ran with it."

Based on an interview by Christine Genier