Operation Red Nose has wrapped up a month of providing volunteer ride service, which included many pub visits from Rudy the reindeer mascot. (Michelle Cowan/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Future of Operation Red Nose in Surrey-Langley rests in the hands of volunteers

Langley Minor Hockey Association arranged 405 rides with the help of 290 volunteers during campaign

After a two year hiatus, Operation Red Nose (ORN) Surrey-Langley was brought back at the end of 2019 by Langley Minor Hockey Association (LMHA), who ultimately provided 405 safe rides home over an eight night span – all done with the help of 290 volunteers.

Vice president of operations Michelle Cowan, said the LMHA team is pleased with how the season went.

“The Langley-Surrey campaign was an incredible success, especially considering this was our first year as hosts. There were challenges along the way, but we persevered and managed to work through them,” Cowan said.

“It was a tremendous amount of work to pull off, but all in all, I’m am proud of what LMHA was able to accomplish, not only financially but more importantly in its service to the community,” she continued.

Cowan said the 405 rides roughly translates into 1,100 people as most service users typically share their ride with other friends and family members.

ORN is free to use, but people are encouraged to donate to the facilitator after they and their vehicle are safely transported home.

“While we still have to complete our final accounting of the campaign, we collected over $17,000 in ride donations. There will be some expenses to come out of that, but considering this was for eight nights, it is pretty substantial,” Cowan explained.

Those funds will be used by LMHA to keep hockey fees down.

The campaign was not without its challenges, Cowan admitted, most evidently when it came to a disproportional amount of volunteers.

ORN facilitators ended up cancelling the service on New Year’s Eve when there were too few names signed up – typically the busiest night.

“The biggest challenge was by and large volunteer recruitment. Not only for the nights of the operation but also in the planning and organizing stages,” Cowan said. “Some of the more seasoned ORN hosts have several committees in place to handle the various tasks, which is something we will have in place in advance of the next campaign. We really did start from scratch.”

Cowan said that the unknown also posed as a challenge, seeing as how this was the first year LMHA took on the role of recruiting and facilitating the operation.

Of course, the spokesperson said all of the hiccups and bumps aside, most volunteers came back after their shift wanting to sign up again.

“The biggest surprise overall was really how much fun everyone had. And that surprised many of our volunteers as well. Our drive teams came back in the wee hours of the morning, with great stories and lots of laughs.”

And after the month-long campaign is all said and done, spanning four weekend starting on Nov. 30, Cowan said lives were ultimately saved by keeping intoxicated drivers off the road.

READ MORE: No Operation Red Nose rides in Surrey-Langley for New Year’s Eve

The question of if ORN will absolutely run again in 2020 now rests in the hands of, not only LMHA, but the entire community.

“Provided we are able to secure a solid group committee of volunteers, then we are all in,” said Cowan, putting out the call for help 10 months in advance.

“I’m confident the momentum gained this year will carry us forward and we’ll be better poised to make the campaign even more successful and provide more rides next year,” she assured.

Cowan especially thanked Karen Klein and Leanne Cassup from ICBC, previous organizer Garry Geisler, and volunteers Cora Boeker and Vince McKay for their above and beyond assistance.

2019 marked ORN’s 36th road safety campaign overall, with the help of 48 606 volunteers in one hundred communities across Canada – 69,029 motorists were given a safe ride home.

In B.C. alone, 3 031 people volunteered in total with 5,399 motorists giving ORN a call.

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Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@langleyadvancetimes.com

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