Volunteers, sponsors make local Red Nose one of B.C.'s most effective

'It can't be overstated, the importance for people to use Operation Red Nose at that time'

Mike Youds / Kamloops Daily News
November 7, 2012 01:00 AM

Walking around Desert Gardens Wednesday, from left, are crime prevention co-ordinator Athena Smith, program co-ordinator Katie Klassen, Operation Red Nose mascot Rudy, RCMP Const. George Buttuls, Pacific Sport GM Carolynn Boomer, ICBC rep Ingrid Brakop and volunteer Yvonne Parade.

Operation Red Nose has kept city streets safe from drunk driving for 16 years, long enough for people to take the program for granted.

That could be why organizers have adopted the slogan, "Keep the vibe alive," as sponsors and volunteers gear up for a Nov. 30 start. While the Kamloops operation keeps rolling, Operation Red Nose has hit a wall in Halifax due to last-minute complications with liability insurance.

"This is where our sponsors come in," said RCMP Const. George Buttuls. "It never seems to be an issue here."

Far from it. A lengthy list of sponsors supports the Kamloops program this season, including drinking establishments and gas stations that provide fuel. Kamloops was second only to the much more populous Langley/Surrey area in the number of rides provided last season. A friendly rivalry has Kamloops trying to be No. 1 this year.

He handles the security clearance for 200 volunteer drivers responsible for driving home people who have had too much to drink. Many of those volunteers have experienced the trauma that drunk drivers cause, either directly or indirectly.

Buttuls recalled one particularly horrific drunk-driving accident when he worked in Powell River.

"It was a horrible case," the veteran officer recalled.

After leaving a bar in Saltery Bay, a drunk driver struck a family in an oncoming vehicle head-on. The driver and a child in the family vehicle were killed in the crash. The mother survived but was left in a vegetative state.

"When you attend a scene like that, it has to affect you as a human being, and you ask why someone makes a choice to drink and drive," he added.

The program operates on Fridays and Saturdays through the festive season until New Year's Eve. From a base at Desert Gardens Community Centre, volunteers fan out between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. to pick up people and drive them home in their own vehicles. To arrange a ride, they can call 372-5110.

"It can't be overstated, the importance for people to use Operation Red Nose at that time," said Mayor Peter Milobar at the kickoff.

"There could be nothing better than to defeat Surrey this year," he added.

A total of 1,039 rides raised $20,000 for PacificSport Interior B.C. in support of amateur athletics.

Program co-ordinator Katie Klassen said they welcome volunteers until the program finishes at year's end. There are 450 volunteer positions to fill.

"The heart of Operation Red Nose is our volunteers," she said. "They come in at 3 a.m. and just have a smile on their faces."

Behind the smiles, they're aware of the importance of what they're doing.

"Perhaps we should be doing this - I said it last year - 12 months of the year," Buttuls said.

© Kamloops Daily News

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