Operation Red Nose kicks off today

Brittany Riddle, volunteer co-ordinator for Operation Red Nose, right, gives a presentation to more than 35  Red Nose volunteers at St. John Ambulance in Thunder Bay. (Sandi Krasowski)
Brittany Riddle, volunteer co-ordinator for Operation Red Nose, right, gives a presentation to more than 35 Red Nose volunteers at St. John Ambulance in Thunder Bay. (Sandi Krasowski)

For many, the holiday season is a time best spent in the company of friends and family. And with office parties and family meals penned into calendars that are filling up fast, sometimes it’s easy to forget to plan for everything.
But planning a safe ride home is never something to overlook.
Today marks the launch of Operation Red Nose, an annual free service provided by St. John Ambulance that helps get people home after they have had too much to drink during the holiday season.
“We just want people to know there are other avenues for getting home other than getting behind the wheel after a few drinks,” said Stephanie Bateman, fund development and marketing co-ordinator at St. John Ambulance in Thunder Bay.
The program, which runs every Thursday, Friday and Saturday between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. from now until Dec. 29, gets you and your vehicle home safely.
Bateman said the program is needed this time of year because there is usually an increase in impaired driving incidents during the holiday season.
“We don’t want families spending the season in the hospital,” she said.
Bateman said the program has been a huge success. In 2010, more than 360 rides were provided, and in 2011 that nearly doubled to more than 650.
“The feedback has been really great,” she said.
“The program continues to expand every year, which I think speaks volumes to how good of a service it really is.”
Bateman attributes much of the success to the volunteers who make it possible. Last year more than 200 people volunteered and Bateman expects that this year that number will also grow.

Lisa Simmik, a first-time volunteer with Operation Red Nose, said the program is a great way to support the community and keep it safe.
“I think it’s important for people to have a safe way home,” she said.
“It’s Christmas and people want to enjoy the season but also make sure they return home safely, and other families on the roads return home safely.”
Simmik said she isn’t nervous about the job, because volunteers are sent out in teams of three and there is a strong support system in place.
Operation Red Nose involves a team showing up where your vehicle is. You and your vehicle are driven home while a volunteer follows to pick up the rest of the team.
Richard Dustin, who is volunteering for a second year with Operation Red Nose, said he didn’t have any problems with unruly passengers.
“Some people can get pretty funny after having a few too many drinks, but everyone has been pleasant to be with,” Dustin said.
He said his experiences last year were enjoyable, adding that he is pleased to see so many people making smart choices when it comes to drinking and driving.
“I found a lot more younger people being a little bit more responsible, and after having one or two drinks realizing it’s not worth the risk,” Dustin said.
While he doesn’t have a lot of advice for the new volunteers, Dustin did tell them to have fun.
“Sometimes you might get the odd person who has too much to drink, but don’t take things personally, don’t get angry, just have a good time,” he said.
Operation Red Nose starts tonight. If you need a ride call 683-NOSE(6673).
If you are interested in volunteering, call 345-1712 ext. 2 or visit www.rednosetbay.com.
There are volunteers out there ready to lend a hand and make our community a safer place, much in the spirit of the season.
“I think our community is really focused on helping each other out,” Simmik said. “We are very large, but we are very small in a way too.”