Mother Nature did her darnedest to spoil the party on New Year’s Eve.
But Saturday night’s snowstorm didn’t stop Operation Red Nose (ORN) Langley-Surrey volunteers from helping to keep impaired drivers off local roads.
Headquartered out of the Langley Gymnastics Foundation (LGF) attached to the Langley Events Centre, the local ORN division sent 10 volunteer teams out Dec. 31, and they delivered 62 safe rides home to partygoers in Langley and Surrey.
During ORN’s nights of operation, two volunteers (a designated driver and navigator) drove people home in their own cars, while a third volunteer (escort driver) followed behind in the team’s escort vehicle. When the team arrived at each drop-off location, they reunited and continued to their next assignment.
On Dec. 2, which was a fairly calm evening, weather-wise, ORN Langley-Surrey was forced to cancel its service because not enough people had volunteered to do the driving.
Such wasn’t the case on the final night of 2016, and into the early morning hours of the new year.
ORN volunteer driver Ryan Knopp told the Times he made his first pick-up at 9 o’clock Saturday night.
By the end of their shift, Knopp along with his volunteer team provided 10 safe rides home –– and didn’t return to the LEC until 4:30 Sunday morning. Along the way, they traveled as far as South Surrey and Aldergrove, and many parts in between.
Knopp, who has volunteered with ORN for the past seven years, said driving conditions were of the white-knuckle variety during the evening hours.
“It was flat out insanity for the first while,” Knopp shared. “From 9 to about 11 (p.m.) it was absolutely treacherous, then after that the main roads started getting clearer which was pretty good.”
Knopp said over the years, he has learned how to drive in the snow.
He also made the call to decide if each recipient’s car was road worthy for the conditions.
Asked if he had to turn anyone away, Knopp replied, “Not a one. They were all really good this time.”
He did admit that the experience was rather exhausting, both physically and mentally, but stressed it was well worth it.
“ I just think it’s a great, great volunteer thing,” he said. “Getting people off the roads who would normally bite the bullet and drive themselves.”
And, he added, the people who received the rides were “ecstatic.”
ORN Langley-Surrey coordinator Mike Biggin said there were initially 15 teams of volunteers on New Year’s Eve but “a bunch (of volunteers) cancelled due to the weather, understandably so.”
And while the roads, especially the side streets, were dicey, there were no accidents involving local ORN volunteers.
“Everyone made it home safe,” Biggin said. “We started the new year with a bang and not a crash.”
Biggin said the local ORN volunteers’ dedication on Dec. 31 was “impressive.”
“It speaks volumes to their character and how much they value Operation Red Nose as a service,” Biggin said. “Keeping the streets safe, and even the people that don’t use (Operation) Red Nose, making sure that they’re not impacted by it, either, by keeping those (impaired) people off the road.”
Rides were provided by donation, with proceeds going to LGF competitive programs, to help pay for athletes going to high-level meets such as national and western championships.
“It doesn’t cover the costs but it just helps the parents offset the costs,” said Biggin, who is LGF’s president.
All told, ORN Langley-Surrey provided more than 400 rides during its eight nights of operation.
“I could safely say, that our numbers were down a little bit because our volunteer numbers were down a bit,” Biggin said.
Surrey is “huge,” geographically, making things challenging for the local ORN division, Biggin noted.
“Geographically, we’re up against it, for sure,” he added. “It would be good if a group would take Surrey.”
Biggin said it is a relief to have this season behind him.
“For me, I took on a bunch of different roles so it was like a second full time job,” he said. “I’m happy that it’s finished, and I’m looking forward to doing maybe a better job (next year).”