Operation Red Nose closed out a successful year in Williams Lake seeing growth in every area except volunteer numbers.
A long-time project of Dave Dickson, the manager of community safety in Williams Lake, Operation Red Nose is a holiday service designed to combat impaired driving. Unlike taxis, Operation Red Nose is by donation and is only for people who have driven to a party or bar and need a safe ride home for themselves and their vehicle.
A collaboration between the city, Williams Lake Community Policing and the Rotary Club of Williams Lake, each year Operation Red Nose has served upwards of 1,000 people with the number only growing exceptionally, according to Dickson.
“We are well over $14,000 in donations, we did 418 rides with 886 riders, we had 208 volunteers and we travelled a distance of 8,0862 kilometres,” Dickson said, adding he and another volunteer manned the phones every night.
Dickson would like to thank their “absolutely amazing” sponsors that support the program, many of whom have done so for a number of years, whose contributions ensure there is “basically no-cost” to run the service. These include Cariboo GM, Lakecity Ford, Heartland Toyota and Gustafson’s Dodge Chrysler and Jeep for each supplying a rental vehicle each night, including extras for New Year’s Eve.
This year Operation Red Nose supported the Cariboo-Chilcotin Gymnastics, the Cariboo-Chilcotin Youth Fiddlers Society, the Williams Lake Blue Fins swim club and Camp Likely, with all proceeds from the month being split up between the four groups. All these organizations, Dickson feels, help make youth better citizens and provides them with skills they can use both for themselves and their community.
Taylor Made Cakes and Sweets, Panago Pizza and Red Tomatoes Pies all provided the organization with refreshments and sustenance throughout its late night endeavours. Dickson would also like to thank the City of Williams Lake, the Williams Lake RCMP, Community Policing, Progressive Printers, Mike Austin Financial Services, PMT Chartered Accountants, the GOAT Radio and the Tribune itself for being long-time supporters and partners of Operation Red Nose.
Mayor Walt Cobb and Chief Willie Sellars were two of the hundreds of volunteers this year, with Dickson praising Sellars for the enthusiasm he brought each of the two nights he volunteered. While the number of volunteers is slightly down from last year, Dickson would like to say a “huge thank you to each and every person who took time out of their holidays to make the roads a safer place.”
Dickson, who has been heading up the service for 20 years now, noted that, overall, impaired driving has gone down since Operation Red Nose started and believes the free nature of the service helps make many to make the right decision and not drive impaired.
“That is not a cool thing to do anymore. Days gone by it was sort of happening but impaired driving is not the sort of thing to do anymore and I would say a high percentage of people totally buy into that belief,” he said.
“This year by far is our best year for rides, donations and riders,” Dickson said. “We are, by far, the smallest community to do it and if you compare our population with (Prince George, Kamloops and the like) our community is absolutely amazing with the amount of support that they give.”
The money raised will be presented to the various organizations at a Rotary meeting later on this month, pending confirmation of a few donations made by businesses that have yet to come in.
Operation Red Nose also marked 35 years of operations across Canada this year, with services available in dozens of towns and cities across seven provinces.