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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Home News Operation Red Nose cancels Christmas campaign over safety concerns

Operation Red Nose cancels Christmas campaign over safety concerns

Operation Red Nose cancels Christmas campaign over safety concerns
An Operation Red Nose volunteer updates the driver schedule at the Lion’s Club in Prince Albert during the 2018 Christmas season. -- Herald file photo.

Organizers have cancelled the 2021 Operation Red Nose (OPN) campaign over safety concerns, but hope to bring it back in 2022.

The annual ride-sharing event operates on weekends during the Christmas season, giving safe rides home to residents who have been drinking in exchange for a donation. Prince Albert Lion’s Club member and OPN coordinator Randy Braaten said it’s not a decision they wanted to make.

“It’s very disappointing,” Braaten said. “It was such a good service. We met a lot of wonderful people when we were out driving them home, and they really appreciated the service. It’s really disappointing.”

Braaten said they couldn’t guarantee the safety of riders or volunteers if there continues to be a high number of COVID-19 cases. It would also be difficult to meet the province’s stringent COVID-19 guidelines while still providing an effective service.

“We were starting to ask, ‘can we be doing this when it’s -30 C outside? Can we 100 per cent guarantee the safety of our volunteers? Things like that,” he explained. “Some of our volunteers are getting up there in years. That was one of our biggest considerations.”

Braaten said he’ll miss the camaraderie that comes with organizing and volunteering for the service, but he’s most concerned about the effect on local schools.

The Lion’s Club gives away 100 per cent of the donations Operation Red Nose receives. That amounted to $600 each for 10 Prince Albert schools the last year the service operated, and $800 each to another 10 schools the year before that.

“It did provide a fair amount of money for the schools when we gave it to their programs, and I think that’s one of the things that bothered me a bit too,” Braaten said. “The schools get left out of some fundraising opportunities.”

Braaten added that they hope to have Operation Red Nose back up and running in Prince Albert next year.

Saskatchewan is one of three provinces that cancelled OPN services for 2021.  Like Braaten, National executive director Anne-Marie Audet said they were disappointed to cancel the service, but didn’t think they could operate in Saskatchewan safely.

“We have put a lot of thought into our decision, and it was a very hard one to make,” Audet explained. “We were hoping, up to the very last minute, to be able to announce that we would be back on the road this year.

“The safety of our volunteers and clients is our priority, so the hard choice to push our safe ride campaign to 2022 is ultimately the most reasonable one given the current health situation.

Alberta and Manitoba have also cancelled their Operation Red Nose campaigns. Audet encouraged drivers to call a friend or a cab if they need a safe ride home this holiday season.