Saving lives one ride home at a time

Saving lives one ride home at a time

Reporter Ryan Uytdewilligen spends a night volunteering with Operation Red Nose Langley-Surrey

I had never volunteered for Operation Red Nose (ORN), and living way out on a farm in the prairies, I had never used the service either – they refused us year after year because it was too far.

Still, I had always sworn to myself to one day dawn the red vest and chauffeur party-goers around; it felt like some kind of civic duty to do some good.

With the triumphant return of the volunteer organization in Langley and such a strong need for drivers, I finally showed up to the makeshift dispatch centre hosted by the Langley Minor Hockey Association (LMHA) last Friday night to make good on that vow.

I was nervous, as were, I think, a lot of the other first timers there. Mostly, we seemed to agree that the biggest obstacle was getting behind the wheel of someone’s car – someone’s expensive Maserati to be more specific.

Despite reading stacks of pamphlets and instructions on how it all works, it’s all still a bit nerve racking to know you’ll be up until the crack of dawn chasing down strangers – like it or not, it’s an out of the ordinary situation.

The experienced volunteers were sure to enlighten us newbies with years-worth of tales – wild eye-popping anecdotes that I, in all good conscience, cannot repeat on a family news website.

On the bright side, they said if the client throws up, at the very least it will happen in their own car. No one could disagree with that logic, despite everyone silently praying moments like that wouldn’t arise.

We were told by organizers not to worry, and then surprisingly treated to what ORN never seems to advertise – unlimited sugar-filled candy bars and coffee to ensure we stayed awake; that, at least, seemed to distract our jangled nerves.

Paired off into teams of three and sent off into assigned neighbourhoods in Surrey-Langley at 9 p.m., we began looking for holiday parties and pubs to spread the word that ORN was on the streets.

Some folks signed up with friends – others like myself had never met the other team members; two hockey parents hoping to raise money for their kids hockey team – the Eagles.

When you’re sent in a car with two strangers, you become friends very quickly; certainly an added bonus when it comes to volunteering with ORN.

We appointed each other specific roles for the evening and began trouncing through bars in our area – Murrayville – as well as a few business holiday parties and even a wedding, handing out little cards with the ORN phone number.

Everyone was happy to see us – particularly the bride and groom who invited us to stay for drinks – of course, duty called and we had to turn that offer down.

Forty-some odd minutes later, we got our first call. It would seem those cards worked. Someone we handed it too phoned the dispatch centre and we were told via text where to pick them up, how many people were coming along, and where we we’re destined to go.

For the better part of the night, I was the escort – trailing behind the client’s vehicle, driven by one of the other volunteers while the third navigated to their home.

READ MORE: Readers respond to Rudy and step up to help Surrey-Langley Operation Red Nose

This is how organized ORN is; many of the clients we drove lived in other cities, so we’d meet another team in designated drop off points on the border of our zone. All that routing and planning was done by dispatch – all we had to do was drive.

A few blinks later, it was 3 a.m. and we were told our shift had ended. Even if you’re not much of a night owl – something I certainly am not – the shift goes lightening quick, and for me, I was wide awake at the end of it all.

Never once did I feel unsafe – having teammates gives you that assurance, but ORN stresses right from the get-go that this is a volunteer gig. No one is ever obliged to give a ride if they feel unsure about the client.

Admittedly, we were all a little disapointed at the end of it because our passengers had all been so well-behaved.

One guy told my team member that he looked like Will Ferrell on Elf which seemed to throw him into an existential funk for the rest of the night, but beyond that – everyone mostly slept or requested to be taken to McDonald’s for a fillet-o-fish; something we were encouraged to oblige by dispatch.

We didn’t have to drive any overly fancy vehicles or traverse any difficult neighbourhoods. At the end of it all, our team had provided five safe rides home and raised hundreds of dollars in donations.

The service is free, but it seemed more times than not, people paid generous amounts for their ride.

Michelle Cowan, vice president of operations, told us beforehand that 68 people die every year because of impaired driving. If we could prevent even just one of those deaths from happening, we did our job.

And that’s what it’s all about; as fun and lighthearted as it often felt, we gave up a few hours of sleep to make sure as few people as possible made a life-altering decision like getting behind the wheel after too many drinks.

Whether you volunteer with or use the service, either decision is one of the best you can make this holiday season.

Covering all of Langley-Township and Surrey, ORN is scheduled every Friday and Saturday night, 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. as well as Tuesday, Dec. 31. – New Year’s Eve.

They’re still in need of volunteers; people can sign up at www.Langleyminorhockey.ca.

The local Red Nose number to call if a ride is needed is 604-539-9082.

_________________________________

Is there more to this story?

Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@langleyadvancetimes.com

Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter

_________________________________

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has announced a lottery for vaccinated Albertans. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Our View: If a lottery would help promote vaccines, why not hold one?

Getting to 80 per cent vaccinations could be easier with a couple million-dollar prizes

A shredding truck was full to the brim after a shred-it by donation event was held at the seniors centre recently. (Roxanne Hooper/Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Shred-It boosts Langley seniors programs

One-day event helps raise more than $7,500 for food security and new resource centre initiatives

Have an opinion you’d like to share? Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or the postal service. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)
LETTER: Langley woman grateful to two strangers when car failed

Two young men pushed her car to safety then she had a medical emergency

The planned site of the new development is highlighted in red, with the existing Tall Timbers complex to the north and 56th Avenue to the south. (Township of Langley)
Neighbours need input on planned development near Tall Timbers: Township council

A housing development at 56th Avenue and 240th Street is on pause for now

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Surrey Fire Service battled a dock fire along the Fraser River late Friday night (June 18). It was on Musqueam Drive, near Industrial Road, around 10:45 p.m. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Fire engulfs pier on Surrey side of the Fraser River

Dock has reportedly been unused for a long time

People in Metro Vancouver can expect to experience a short wave of heat just in time for Father’s Day, according to Environment Canada. (Black Press Media files)
Short-lived heatwave headed for Metro Vancouver this weekend

Temperatures are expected to be up to 10 degrees higher than average Sunday and Monday

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The B.C. woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Most Read