The Langley Gymnastics Foundation was home to Operation Red Nose (and Rudy, the mascot) for a decade. The designated driver service is not being offered in Langley and Surrey this year. Langley Times file photo

The Langley Gymnastics Foundation was home to Operation Red Nose (and Rudy, the mascot) for a decade. The designated driver service is not being offered in Langley and Surrey this year. Langley Times file photo

Decision to opt out of Operation Red Nose made last spring, says Langley Gymnastics

ORN drivers in neighbouring communities will fill Langley/Surrey gaps as best they can

Operation Red Nose (ORN), a seasonal designated driver service that offers safe rides home to revelers in exchange for voluntary donations, won’t be offered in Langley/Surrey this year.

Langley Gymnastics Foundation (LGF) has run ORN locally for more than a decade, and its decision to let go of the reins wasn’t made at the last minute, stressed LGF past president and last year’s ORN Langley/Surrey co-ordinator Mike Biggin.

“Right after the campaign, we notified ORN Canada, once we completed our financials,” Biggin said.

In the spring, a Surrey organization that Biggin didn’t name showed interest in taking on ORN Langley/Surrey and, he said, opted last month not to carry on with the service.

“We gave them all of our resources… vests, signs, everything that we had, and in October they decided not to do it,” Biggin said.

Biggin said LGF’s decision not to run the service “was not a surprise for (Operation) Red Nose Canada or for our parents. We had to finalize it in September, because that was when our AGM was, but we had made the decision back in the spring.”

The decision effectively ends the partnership between LGF and ORN, for the time being, at least.

“That’s the tough part — it’s a good community service,” Biggin said. “But to co-ordinate it takes quite a bit of time to set up. To just have it run by volunteers and asking someone to co-ordinate that is a pretty big task. It was becoming tougher and tougher to run as an organization.”

Easily the biggest challenge last year wasn’t the snowy weather, but gathering enough volunteers to successfully run the service.

In fact, ORN wasn’t able to operate last Dec. 2 due to a shortage of helpers.

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“Our parent volunteers the last couple years was down 40 per cent and lower,” Biggin said. “During the campaign (last year), we struggled. It’s tougher and tougher to find volunteers. Even last year in Ottawa, they didn’t run it at all.”

Donations from past ORN campaigns in Langley and Surrey went to offset costs at LGF.

“The fundraising money kept everybody’s fees a little bit lower,” Biggin said. “It helped to keep the operating costs down.”

ORN trying to accommodate

Not having ORN in place in Langley and Surrey will put some extra pressure on volunteers in neighbouring communities.

Chris Wilson, the provincial ORN spokesperson and coordinator for Burnaby, New Westminster and Tri-Cities, said volunteers will do what they can to accommodate people needing rides home in Surrey and Langley.

“We’ll be trying our best to service clients that need to either go from our area into Surrey and Langley or vice versa,” Wilson said.

“We realize this is not the ideal situation and are very hopeful that another organization will see this as an opportunity to take on a great community project that’s also a fundraiser for their organization for next year.”

On nine nights from Nov. 24 to Dec. 31, Operation Red Nose will be available in 101 Canadian communities, 11 of which are located in British Columbia. Communities covered include Abbotsford/Mission, Burnaby, Chilliwack, Delta/Richmond, Kamloops, New Westminster, North Vancouver/West Vancouver, Prince George, Ridge Meadows, Tri-Cities and Williams Lake.

In the meantime, Wilson is urging non-profits interested in coordinating ORN in Langley and Surrey next year to contact the organization through www.operationrednose.com.

He’s also hoping volunteers will come forward to help out in neighbouring municipalities this year. Volunteer application forms can be downloaded through www.operationrednose.com/volunteers. Part of the application form includes a police information check.

CounterAttack launches Dec. 2

Tracy Crawford, MADD Canada’s chapter services manager for Western Canada, said it is “disappointing” that ORN will not be offered in Surrey and Langley this holiday season.

“We know how valuable this service is to the community and the huge impact they make in reducing impaired driving over the holiday season,” Crawford said.

The more safe, reliable and convenient transportation options available to people, the less likely they are to drive impaired she said: “Operation Red Nose and Ride Sharing Companies provides people with a convenient, safe, reliable and accessible transportation option.”

Crawford reminds everyone that there is never a reason to drive a vehicle if you are impaired.

“Plan ahead your safe ride home before heading out,” she said. “If you see someone you suspect is driving impaired, please call 911.”

From a policing perspective, Langley RCMP Sgt. Alex Mulvihill said enforcement will remain the same regardless of whether ORN is operating in Langley and Surrey.

“There are a lot of other ways to get home safely,” Mulvihill said. “People need to do their research before they go out and (they need to) make appropriate choices.”

The RCMP’s CounterAttack campaign launches Dec. 2, and RCMP officers will be out in full force that night and throughout the entire season looking for impaired drivers.

“We realize parties aren’t just happening on weekends and people need to be aware that they could encounter a road block any day of the week,” Mulvihill said.