Operation Red Nose mascot, Rudy, is seen at a road check with Langley RCMP on Dec. 9, 2019. The volunteer safe-ride service has been cancelled this year across Canada as a result of COVID-19. (Michelle Cowan/Special to Black Press)

Operation Red Nose Chilliwack cancels service this holiday season due to COVID-19

Asking people to plan safe way to get home by calling relative, cab, or designating sober driver

People who were planning on using Operation Red Nose (ORN) as their safe ride home this year will have to find other modes of transportation for the holiday season.

The volunteer safe-ride service will not be going ahead for 2020 due to COVID-19. The cancellation is in effect not just in Chilliwack, but across Canada.

“Given the current public health situation and considering its logistical impacts, Operation Red Nose has decided not to provide its safe-ride service nationally, which includes our region,” ORN Chilliwack announced Tuesday in a release.

To help keep impaired drivers off the roads, ORN is asking people to plan ahead for a safe way to get home by calling a relative, a cab, or designating a sober driver.

RELATED: Fatal Vision goggles give drivers an impaired-driving experience in Chilliwack

“The safety of our volunteers, clients, and local host organizations has always been one of our top priorities,” said Jean-Philippe Giroux, ORN executive director.

Given the pandemic protocols from Dr. Bonnie Henry, ORN Chilliwack expected they would have received fewer calls this season than in previous years, said Ken Smith who has volunteered with ORN Chilliwack for 10 years.

“[We] still want to promote the importance of planning ahead to get home safe. Our awareness message remains the same, and we are counting on everyone to continue planning for a safe way home,” Smith said.

How ORN works is a team of three volunteers will go out in an escort vehicle to pick up the client. Then a driver and navigator chauffeur the client home in their own vehicle while the escort ride follows behind to deliver the team to its next destination.

It’s a by-donation service and every year ORN Chilliwack brings in more than $10,000. One hundred per cent of the money is used to help fund local youth or amateur sports projects via the Kiwanis Club of Sardis.

ORN was launched in Quebec in 1984 and it has locations in various cities throughout the country. The Kiwanis Club of Sardis has been organizing and providing the service here in Chilliwack for the past eight years.

Last year in Chilliwack, the service provided 532 rides to 1,092 passengers, raising almost $12,000 in ride donations.

In November, ORN Chilliwack will reveal the details of its 2020 awareness campaign, which will exclude the safe-ride service this year.

“ORN Chilliwack wishes to thank all volunteers and sponsors for their support year after year. The 2020 campaign will certainly be different, but we know that we will be able to count on their support to get through this unusual period and meet again in 2021, with our red vests on, to safely drive people home in our community,” the release stated.

RELATED: Suspected drunk driver crashes into Kamloops Operation Red Nose vehicles


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