Rudy, the Operation Red Nose mascot, will be back after a two year absence in the volunteer service. (Langley Advance Times files)

Eagles swoop in to bring back Operation Red Nose

Surrey, Langley have been without the holiday volunteer ride service for two years

Langley Minor Hockey Association (LMHA) has taken over the reins of Operation Red Nose (ORN) for the 2019 holiday season.

The Langley Gymnastics Foundation facilitated the service for more than a ten-year run before hanging up the keys in 2016.

The following two years saw no ORN service in Langley and Surrey, though 11 other cities in the Lower Mainland, including Maple Ridge, Abbotsford-Mission and Chilliwack offered drop offs to the area.

Now, Michelle Cowan, vice president of operations for LMHA, said the organization is pleased to be bringing the service back.

“As far as costs go with hockey, we’ve had to raise fees and a lot of families are not able to afford it, so we thought this would be a great way to help with costs and give back to the community,” Cowan explained.

For 35 years, the volunteer-run service has operated under the simple mantra of “don’t drive if you are impaired,” offering people who are under the influence of alcohol a safe ride home in a non-judgmental manner; any funds raised through donations, tips, and sponsorships are given to the host organization.

ORN has it roots in sporting organizations; Laval University swim coach Jean-Marie De Konick was inspired by a local radio program that claimed more than 50 per cent of fatal crashes were caused by motorists who had consumed alcohol at the time.

After learning that many bar patrons didn’t want to leave their vehicle behind and take a cab home, he came up with the idea for ORN and enlisted his team of 25 swimmers to drive motorists home in their own vehicles.

“It’s been a huge learning curve with this being our first year and we’re up to our eyeballs trying to roll everything out,” Cowan explained. “We have a huge geographical area – one of the largest – so our priority is getting volunteers. We don’t want people to call and be turned down.”

Read More: Langley, Surrey without Operation Red Nose for 2nd year

The local OPN territory covers all of Surrey (execpt for White Rock) and everything east to 164 Street.

A team of three volunteers will pick callers up and drive them in their own vehicle to the destination of their choice. One volunteer drives, a second navigates, and a third volunteer follows in an escort vehicle to pick up the volunteers – all done free of charge.

“It is a free service and there is no expectation other than people can’t have the option to donate if they want,” Cowan added. “We are also looking for cooperate sponsorships to run the program and help get it off the ground.”

Those volunteering their services behind the wheel must hold a valid driver’s license to go through a criminal record check, but dispatch duties and navigators are also required roles needed to make ORN take flight.

Many parents of Eagles players are stepping up to take a shift or two, but Cowan added that first timers seem to have fun and tend to sign up for more evenings after doing their first shift.

“It’s 100 per cent volunteer run and a fantastic campaign. We hope that it’s going to be successful and that we continue. We’re going to get people home safe this holiday season,” Cowan assured.

The mascot Rudy will be showing up all over the community throughout the holiday season to remind people that ORN is an option for people to get home safely in Langley once again.

The volunteer service, which offers by-donation rides home to party-goers, runs every Friday and Saturday night from Nov. 30 to Dec. 29 from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.

More information can be found at www.langleyminorhockey.ca/operation-red-nose or on their Facebook page.

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

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