LETHBRIDGE – For 21 years, Operation Red Nose has offered residents a safe ride home over the holidays. But, for the first time ever, the service has cancelled New Year’s rides due to a lack of volunteers.
“It was a tough call, I can only remember a couple of times we’ve had to cancel and that was due to weather,” said Program Coordinator Jim Steacy.
Less than half of the teams needed to run a successful night signed up, leaving the organization with no other option.
“The fact that we had to pull the plug this year on New Year’s Eve was really tough, but at the end of the day, we don’t want to put out a sub-par service with six driving teams. That would mean astronomical wait times for rides,” added Steacy.
Operation Red Nose benefits athletes at the University of Lethbridge, something Stacey, a former athlete himself, says is crucial to teams.
“Student athletes don’t get a chance to work much and there isn’t a lot of scholarship dollars available to student athletes in Canada as far as athletics go. So, any help we can get as athletes in the program, coming from Operation Red Nose, and coming from tremendous generosity from the community, it helps more than people realize.
Lethbridge Regional Police Staff Sgt. Art Tamminga say it’s a shame the program was cancelled, but party goers can’t use that as an excuse to drink and drive.
“They have to be responsible, if they do go out drinking, they have to make sure they aren’t driving, and make sure they have somebody sober and responsible to look after them.”
Staff Sgt. Tamminga added officers will be out in full force, with all traffic members on-hand, setting up check stops and regular patrols.
Steacy says Operation Red Nose will be back next year, and hopes the community steps up early enough to keep the safe ride program going. Every volunteer and coordinator has to undergo a criminal record check, which can take up to a week.
“If you’re handing in your forms two or three days before hand, odds are we won’t be able to have you help out just because we won’t get you processed in time,” said Steacy.
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