Rudy the Operation Red Nose reindeer mascot rubbed elbows with volunteers and supporters at the organization’s 19th Nanaimo season kick off Tuesday.
The event, hosted at Nanaimo Golf Club, drew about 40 people, a big portion of whom signed up as volunteers to help keep people from drinking and driving following holiday celebrations.
Each year Operation Red Nose raises donations that support up-and-coming athletes through PacificSport Vancouver Island in exchange for offering drivers safe rides home.
This year’s theme is: hand the reins over to us.
From Nov. 28 until New Year’s Eve, Red Nose volunteers will get vehicle owners, their passengers and their vehicles home safely.
The service is offered to drivers who feel unfit to drive for any reason, is confidential and costs just the price of a cash donation to the program.
Jeanne Seney, program coordinator for Nanaimo, Lantzville and Ladysmith, said in 2013, 246 volunteers drove more than 1,100 people home safely over the 11 days the program operated over the holiday season in Nanaimo, which raised more than $15,000.
“I have close to 100 volunteers signed up, so far, this year and that’s just the beginning,” Seney said.
Seney said this year’s goal is to top last year’s fundraising total and add more volunteers.
Operation Red Nose started in Quebec in 1984 and now operates in 99 communities across Canada.
More than 1 million volunteers have given safe rides to nearly 2 million people since the program began.
Long-standing supporting organizations of the program include the RCMP and ICBC, which provides special insurance that covers the volunteers, clients and vehicles taking part in the sober ride program.
“It’s unlike any other program in that impaired drivers are removed from the road and I don’t think you can get, from a road safety perspective, any better than that,” said Caroline Robinson, ICBC spokeswoman.
Across B.C. in 2013, 4,300 Operation Red Nose volunteers drove 7,800 people and their vehicles home safely.
To arrange for a ride, please call the Operation Red Nose hot line at 250-755-6969.
For more information, a calendar of operation dates, to volunteer or become a corporate sponsor, please call Seney at 250-740-6572 or visit the Pacific Sport Vancouver Island website at www.pacificsportvi.com.