Campus Life

Volunteer effort makes a success of Red Nose campaign

The holidays remained a time for celebration, thanks, at least in part, to Operation Red Nose (ORN), a national program run in conjunction with the University of Lethbridge that ensures partygoers and their vehicles get home safely.

Lethbridge is one of only three communities in Alberta that offers the program and donations go to support the Pronghorn Booster Club. This year, ORN provided 894 safe rides home and is happy to report that donations are up.

"We're estimating that we've probably brought in just over $40,000 in funding this year," says Sandy Slavin, executive director of Sport and Recreation Services. "That includes in-car donations, contributions from local organizations booking the service for their holiday parties and sponsorship dollars."

Lethbridge has truly embraced the program and in addition to using the service, many organizations support the operations of the program.

"There are a number of organizations that have been very good to us from the beginning," explains Slavin of a program that just concluded its 15th year. "Gas King, Tim Hortons, the Regent and the City of Lethbridge have always helped provide what we need. In addition, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is our provincial sponsor and they provide the insurance, without which we wouldn't be able to operate and support the basic organizing costs of the program."

This type of support enables more than 500 volunteers to do what they need to do: get people home safely. However, in talking to Dr. Jon Doan and Robin Hopkins, two longtime Red Nose volunteers, there's more to it than that.

Hopkins has been involved since high school when she started volunteering her time answering phones. When asked why she continues to volunteer, she doesn't hesitate: "Besides for the fun?" laughs Hopkins. "Operation Red Nose allows people to come out one night a year and make a difference. Volunteering doesn't necessarily require a huge time commitment – you can give back in just a few hours."

Giving back is what ORN is all about, which is why 70 per cent of the volunteers are Pronghorn athletes.

"ORN provides a great opportunity for student athletes to give back to the community," notes Doan, who first got involved as a grad student and continues to volunteer now that he's faculty. "It's also a great way for the community to see Pronghorn Athletics as something off the ice, or the field, or the court – these programs add value to the community."

While funds raised support Pronghorn Athletics, the primary goal of ORN is to prevent drunk driving by offering a safe alternative.

"Sometimes people feel they have to make a donation, and I think it's important that people understand that it's a service; we're here to get you and your car home safely," explains Hopkins. "If you can make a donation, that's a bonus."