The light has burned out for Operation Red Nose.
After two decades, the volunteer-run holiday service that provided Nanaimo residents and their vehicles a ride home by donation after a night of drinking has ceased operations for good.
Operation Red Nose first began in 1996 and was organized by PacificSport Vancouver Island. Operation Red Nose also served as a fundraiser for PacificSport, which supports athletes from Mill Bay to Campbell River.
Jenn Houtby-Ferguson, PacificSport marketing and communications officer, told the News Bulletin that Operation Red Nose will not be operating this year or in future years.
“It won’t continue,” she said.
Houtby-Ferguson said the decision to end Operation Red Nose was partly due to recent decline in people using the service and the lack of volunteers.
“In terms of overall people participating in the program, we’ve started to see a slight decline,” she said. “I think the need has been declining, likely because people are more aware of the hazards of drinking and driving.”
PacificSport also invested plenty of human capital into the operation and saw limited return, according to Houtby-Ferguson, who said the amount of money raised each year varied between $6,000 to $10,000.
“We began to realize that we were investing a lot of our human capital and not raising a lot of dollars,” she said, adding with other designated driver services in Nanaimo such as Get A Go Go, Operation Red Nose’s departure should not hurt the community.
“We feel very confident that this decision is not going to impact the community in a negative way,” she said.
The Nanaimo RCMP, which has supported Operation Red Nose over the years, disagrees. Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said Operation Red Nose was a fixture within the community and that the community has not turned a corner with drinking and driving, adding that there is still a need for a designated driver program during the holidays.
“Operation Red Nose was so successful because it was relatively cheap for individuals to get from point A to point B,” he said.
Houtby-Ferguson said PacificSport is currently working on alternative fundraising opportunities and is preparing to launch an adopt-an-athlete program.
“People will be able to go online to the PacificSport website and they will be able to make a financial contribution [to a local athlete] in whatever amount they are comfortable with,” she said.