Steacy a mainstay with Operation Red Nose

If there has been one constant with Pronghorn Athletics and the annual Operation Red Nose (ORN) campaign, it is that over the program’s 21-year history, a Steacy has always been involved. That tradition will continue this year as former Pronghorn thrower and Olympian Jim Steacy (BASc ’09) assumes a leadership role.

Jim Steacy honours the legacy left by his mother Debby by taking the reins of the iconic program.

Of course, having Steacy as a key organizer only makes sense, given his 14-year run with ORN and the fact his mother Debby is one of the main reasons the program is such a rousing success.

“My mom ran the program and she and Sandy Slavin essentially built it up to what it is today, which is a tremendously successful fundraiser for Pronghorn Athletics. It’s become a staple in the community,” says Steacy.

Debby passed away in April 2014 and this will be the second ORN campaign without her steady hand at the helm.

“To be able to step into shoes that I don’t belong in is a huge honour and I’m hoping I can continue to do a good job and chase the level of excellence my mother established with this program,” says Steacy.

A unique designated driving program, Operation Red Nose creates the opportunity for individuals who have been drinking, or who do not feel fit to drive, to get driven home in their own vehicle by a support team of ORN volunteers. There is no fee for the service, but donations are always accepted. Over the course of the last 20 years, more than $606,000 has been raised in support of Pronghorn Athletics.

“One of the reasons we’ve been able to make it work so well here is that Lethbridge is the perfect size for this kind of program,” says Steacy. “There are almost 100,000 people living here but it’s still just a 15-minute drive from corner to corner in the city. It’s also such a student-friendly city and I think people feel a connection to the university and see it as a way to support Pronghorn Athletics.”

The campaign could not be successful without the sponsorship and volunteer support that keep it viable. Last year, 1,207 rides were provided to southern Alberta motorists with more than 600 volunteers making it happen.

“I had no idea of the impact of this program when I first started,” says Steacy, who initially helped in the command centre because he was too young to drive the cars. “Over the years, I’ve been able to do every role imaginable with the program so it’s given me a good appreciation of how big it is. We have so many great volunteers, every student-athlete at the U of L is involved and in the end, when you can raise $50,000 in the course of 12 days, that’s something to be proud of.”

Alpine Insurance and Intact Insurance are co-sponsoring the insurance coverage for this year’s program and local donations provide food and refreshments for volunteers, as well as gas for support vehicles and phone service.

“Everybody has bought into the concept,” says Steacy. “The University is invested in it, the community has bought in and the level of commitment that the athletes and the coaches and Pronghorn Athletics staff have shown to this program is invaluable.

“As soon as everyone see the red vests, people just smile and welcome us in. They appreciate the fact that we are out doing this. They respect the program and really appreciate the service we’re bringing to the community and it’s neat to be a part of it.”

Operation Red Nose is in service this holiday season on the following dates: Nov. 27-28; Dec. 3-5; Dec. 10-12; Dec. 17-19 and New Year’s Eve. Those wishing to use the service can call 403-320-4155 from 9:30 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Anyone interested in volunteering with Operation Red Nose can call Pronghorn Athletics at 403-329-2681.