Operation Red Nose is a designated-driver service over the Christmas holidays where volunteers take you and your car home after your night of festivities.
NOTE: Because of the coronavirus and concerns about the safety of its volunteers and passengers, the Operation Red Nose program is NOT running in 2020. Hopefully it can happen again in 2021.
This article contains information about the following topics:
How ORN Works (in Brief) | More About the Program | ORN in Abbotsford-Mission | ORN in Chilliwack | ORN in Delta-Richmond | ORN in Surrey-Langley | ORN in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows | ORN on the North Shore | ORN in the Tri-Cities, Burnaby & New Westminster | Frequently Asked Questions | Tips & Advice | Other Information
Click on any of the above links to jump to a specific topic or region of service, or continue reading to learn all about the program and its services in the Lower Mainland.
Operation Red Nose in Vancouver
Founded in 1984, Operation Red Nose (ORN) is a national program that keeps people safe over the winter holiday partying season.
After a night of celebrations, instead of taking a taxi and then figuring out how to get your car home the next day, and definitely instead of driving under any kind of influence, give Operation Red Nose a call and get their volunteers to pick you up (along with your car)!
The program, sometimes called ORN for short, operates in the Lower Mainland in Abbotsford, Burnaby, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Langley, Mission, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Surrey and West Vancouver. (Note: in previous years the service has also be in the Delta-Richmond area, but not in 2019.)
If you’re out drinking on a Friday or Saturday night in any of the above communities on one of the four weekends leading up to December 25th, or you’re out on New Year’s Eve, chances are good a team of volunteer drivers can help you and your vehicle get home. And it’s by donation with proceeds benefiting area charities and youth programs!
(Note: There are no ORN services currently in the City of Vancouver. That being said, the North Shore program will usually drive people to and from Vancouver or Burnaby TO or FROM the North Shore, although not from Vancouver to other Vancouver destinations or to Burnaby. New for 2019, though, ORN now services the Langley-Surrey area.)
The Rotary Club of Lions Gate is one of four Rotary Clubs that are proud to provide Operation Red Nose services on the North Shore. It’s a collaborative effort requiring hundreds of volunteer hours and thousands of kilometres of driving! In addition to numerous other projects benefiting the community, the Lions Gate Rotary Club is also the organization behind North Vancouver’s annual Canada Day Celebrations at Waterfront Park.
How it Works (in Brief)
Operation Red Nose is a free service that’s run by volunteers. It’s free, although donations are greatly appreciated (and the service is well worth paying for)!
Typical dates of service for the program are the four Fridays and Saturdays leading up to Christmas, plus New Year’s Eve. In 2019 that meant November 19 and 30 as well as December 6-7, 13-14, 20-21 and 31. Hours of operation are usually between 9 pm and around 3 am.
If you drive your car to a venue, indulge in a few drinks (or sample recently legalized alternatives), and then want to get both you and your vehicle home safely, give Operation Red Nose a call. If there is a program based in your region volunteers will pick you up and drive you home, in most cases even if that means going to another municipality nearby yet outside their area of service.
(Note: If you’re celebrating in an area that isn’t served by Operation Red Nose, like in the City of Vancouver, even if your final destination is within an area served by the program, unfortunately, in most cases, you’re out of luck! Service is just available starting in the region where you drink.)
When you phone for the service you’ll be asked for the number of people needing rides, the location of your restaurant, bar or residence of the party, and the destination(s) you want to be driven home to. You might also be asked the make of your vehicle and if it’s a standard or automatic. You’ll then be given an approximate time of pickup (and the time is only approximate, and could vary by as much as an hour or more, but usually less).
When it comes time for your ride home a team of three volunteers shows up. One drives you and your car to your home, a second is a passenger in your car (so you aren’t alone with a single stranger), and the third follows behind in their own vehicle (so they can pick up the team again and take them to the next place).
More About the Program and How it Works
Operation Red Nose relies on the efforts of hundreds of volunteers who do everything from managing the program in their area to advertising, getting sponsors, answering phone calls and doing the driving.
Each ORN region is managed by a non-profit organization that takes responsibility for coordinating the service in their area. Why do they do this? To help ensure the streets are safe, plus, thanks to the generous donations of their passenger clients and corporate sponsors, to raise money for their charitable work.
The designated-driver service offered by Operation Red Nose is free. There is no obligation to pay for your ride. That being said, it is a fundraising service offered by volunteers and benefiting valuable youth-focused causes (so don’t be a Scrooge and be cheap with your donation)!
All proceeds from Operation Red Nose designated-driver programs go to fund youth sports and youth programs. That is the mandate of ORN. So in exchange for your donation, not only do you get a safe ride home but children and youth in your community benefit!
ORN Regions in the Lower Mainland
There are chapters of Operation Red Nose all over the country. Lower Mainland regions served by the program in 2019 included Abbotsford-Mission, Chilliwack, Langley-Surrey, Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, the North Shore, Tri-Cities and the Burnaby & New Westminster area. See below for details about each region.
The service areas have changed slightly since previous years. In 2019 ORN no longer serviced Delta-Richmond, but had added service in Surrey-Langley. 2021 details are to be confirmed.
ORN in Abbotsford-Mission
The Abbotsford-Mission service provides as many as 1500 rides to folk in the region each year and funds raised benefit their programs for youth. For details about the designated driver service in this area see the Pacific Sport ORN website.
(NOTE: The designated driver service is not operating in 2020 due to COVID-19.)
ORN in Chilliwack
Operation Red Nose is operated in the Chilliwack region by the Kiwanis Club of Sardis. If you’re in Chilliwack (or the Cultus Lake area) and needed a ride home late at night with your car in 2019 on the Fridays or Saturdays of Nov. 29-30, Dec. 6-7, 13-14 or 20-21, or on New Year’s Eve, you could book your ride by calling 604-393-3000.
Note: Similar to the program in other regions, the Chilliwack number to call is only answered during regular hours of operation, which means on the above dates between 9 pm and 3 am.
(NOTE: Operation Red Nose is not operating in 2020 due to COVID-19. 2021 details are to be confirmed.)
ORN in Delta-Richmond
Note: The service in Delta-Richmond appears to not have happened in 2019.
In previous years the free designated-driver services in both Delta and Richmond were offered by Delta Gymnastics which is a gymnastics club based at the Delta Sport Development Centre at 4680 Clarence Taylor Crescent in Delta.
Coordinating the efforts of over 350 volunteers, Delta Gymnastics has been running the program for 17 years now. Last year their teams drove hundreds of party-goers close to 13,000 km from restaurants and parties to home. In so doing they raised almost $1 per kilometre driven thanks to corporate sponsors and the generous tips and donations from grateful passengers.
(NOTE: The designated driver service is not operating in 2020 due to COVID-19. 2021 details are to be determined.)
ORN in Surrey-Langley
Operation Red Nose is operated in the Surrey-Langley region by the Langley Minor Hockey Association. Donations received go towards local amateur hockey organizations.
Similar to the program in other regions, the regular hours of operation are usually from 9 pm to 3 am. In 2019 it operated on November 29 & 30 and December 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21 & 31. The number to call for a ride on any of those nights was 604-539-9082. To volunteer, contact the organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(NOTE: The designated driver service is not operating in 2020 due to COVID-19. Hopefully it will run again in 2021.)
ORN in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows
Operation Red Nose is provided by KidSport Canada in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. KidSport is a charity that helps pay for sports equipment and team registration expenses for children ages 18 and under who cannot otherwise afford to play organized sports. All tips and donations to Operation Red Nose in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows benefit underprivileged kids and the work of this charity.
To arrange a ride home in this part of the Lower Mainland on a Friday or Saturday during the holiday season in 2019 you had to call 604-515-6673 (NOSE) during the program’s 9 pm to 3 am hours of operation on November 29, 30, December 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21 & 31. And for information about volunteer opportunities in the Ridge-Meadows region, contact the organizers by e-mail at email@example.com.
(NOTE: Operation Red Nose is not operating in 2020 due to COVID-19.)
ORN on the North Shore
There are four Rotary Clubs on Vancouver’s North Shore and between them they coordinate the designated-driver program in North Vancouver and West Vancouver. The four organizations are the Rotary Clubs of Lions Gate, West Vancouver Sunrise, West Vancouver and North Vancouver.
For 17 years now, the Rotary Clubs have helped pub patrons, restaurant customers and people at private parties on the North Shore get home safely during the Christmas holiday season. The service is free, but tips and donations benefit the Rotary Clubs’ youth programs and other charitable projects.
Rotary Clubs are service clubs made up of business people, professionals and retirees who support charitable projects and work for change in their communities and the world. It’s a fabulous organization!
It’s good to know that the ORN program on the North Shore will usually take passengers to and from Burnaby and Vancouver to or from the North Shore. They won’t, however, do pickups and drop offs from one Vancouver destination to another Vancouver destination, or between Vancouver and Burnaby.
In a typical year over 200 North Shore volunteers drive close to 6000 kilometres to provide 250 or so safe rides home each holiday season. It’s truly a most valuable service.
For more information about the designated driver service in North Vancouver and West Vancouver, click ORN on the North Shore. Last year the service ran from 9 pm to 3 am on November 29 & 30 as well as on December 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21 or 31. To volunteer to help the program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
(NOTE: The designated driver service is not operating in 2020 due to COVID-19. 2021 details are to be confirmed.)
ORN in the Tri-Cities, Burnaby & New Westminster
The charitable beneficiary and organizer of Operation Red Nose in the Tri-cities communities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody, as well as in Burnaby and New Westminster, is KidSport which is a charitable organization that provides financial assistance for children under 19 years of age who want to play organized sports.
The same as in other regions, ORN operated in these municipalities in 2019 on the Fridays and Saturdays of November 29-30 and December 6-7, 13-14 and 20-21, plus Tuesday December 31 (i.e., New Year’s Eve).
Further details can also be found at operationrednosetricities.com.
(NOTE: Operation Red Nose is not operating in 2020 due to COVID-19.)
Operation Red Nose FAQs
Below are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about the program. (Note: Exact policies and procedures may vary by region.)
- Will ORN drop your friends off along the way at their homes too? Yes. If there are a number of people in your party all with their own cars, teams will drive each of your vehicles and their respective passengers home. And if different people in each car need to be dropped off at different residences, the volunteers will happily make multiple stops and drop people off as needed.
- Can I use the service if I have consumed cannabis, am simply feeling overtired, or just don’t feel comfortable driving at night? Yes. Regardless of the situation (within reason), if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable driving your vehicle home, give ORN a call.
- Will Operation Red Nose drive you from one bar to another? Generally no. They’ll drive you from your party to home though (or to your friend’s home).
- Can I use the program if I don’t have a car that needs driving home too? No. Take a cab or public transit! The service is designed to help solve the problem of people getting home with their vehicles, and resources are limited. The volunteers love to help, but can’t assist everyone.
- How can I support Operation Red Nose? You can help this awesome program in a number of ways including the following:
- Use the program yourself and tip generously.
- Tell your friends about the program and encourage them to use the service (and to tip/donate generously).
- Tell your employer about the program, encourage them to be a financial sponsor and recommend they use the program to get their staff members home safely after this year’s staff Christmas party.
- Tell your favourite bar, night club or late-night restaurant that they should be a corporate sponsor and encourage their patrons to get home safely with Operation Red Nose.
- Can I reserve a ride well in advance? The answer is generally no, but sometimes. You can’t normally request to be picked up the following week at a certain time – you need to call on the night of your ride. If you are hosting a big party, or a company dinner, however, you can contact the ORN group in your area and ask for a special service. Companies and private party hosts can sometimes offer to sponsor the program, or make an “extra nice” donation, in which case booking a pick-up time in advance can usually be arranged.
- Am I guaranteed a ride home? No. If you call 2 hours before you need your ride the odds are very good that a team of volunteers will be able to pick you up within a couple of hours (plus or minus). Except for sometimes on New Year’s Eve, which is the program’s busiest night, it’s rare that demand for rides is too much for the program to handle. That being said, it’s always good to have a back-up plan just in case.
- What happens if the volunteer ORN driver of my car has an accident? Hopefully that won’t happen! But if it does, the driver and the program are insured by ICBC. ICBC will cover your insurance claim and it won’t affect your driving premiums.
ORN Tips and Advice
Below is some additional information and advice to help you make the most out of your Operation Red Nose experience.
- Give generously! It’s Christmas time, it’s a tremendously valuable service, and volunteers are staying up until the wee hours of the morning so that you can stay out, have a few extra drinks, enjoy an extra good time and get home safely. What’s more, money that you donate goes to worthwhile youth-benefiting charitable causes!
- Operation Red Nose operates on a first-come first-served basis, and volunteer numbers are limited. If you are the 100th person to phone for a pickup on a particularly busy evening, and the ORN team can only manage 90 rides by the end of the night, you’ll be out of luck. So reserve your ride earlier than later!
- The program runs between 9 pm and 3 am on its 9 days of operation each year. That means that the last ride finishes at 3 am – it doesn’t start then – because volunteers need to get home to bed. Consequently, you’ll need to book your ride home before 2 am.
- New Year’s Eve is generally the busiest night for ORN volunteers, which means there are often more requests for rides than rides available, and longer waits. If needing the service on December 31st or the wee hours of January 1st, book your ride extra early (and expect pretty much everyone to be requesting pickup between the same 12:30 to 1:00 am period).
- Be ready to go when the driving team arrives. If you know approximately when your drivers are expected, pay your bill and be ready to go early. But then relax, enjoy an additional drink or two and have fun while you wait (and then just leave cash on the table to cover your extra end-of-night expenses). Don’t wait outside in the cold as it could take a long time for your ride to arrive. But also don’t make them wait when they do arrive as there will be lots of other people wanting their help after you.
- Generally people don’t get tax receipts for their tips and donations for their rides home. Companies and individuals sponsoring the program or “donating” significant amounts to “purchase” rides for their employees and friends, however, can usually get a tax-deductible receipt when pre-arranged. Also, individuals wanting to donate more than what they would have otherwise paid for a taxi, if paying by cheque, may in some cases also be able to get a tax receipt.
- And finally, be patient (and happy!), even if your volunteer drivers show up later than you ideally wanted. Operation Red Nose is a busy program, it’s run by volunteers, and it can sometimes be difficult to estimate the time between taking one group of passengers home and being ready to pick up the next. Similar to a taxi service, however, generally they are really good.
Operation Red Nose volunteers have raised over $1.5 million nationwide and, in British Columbia alone, kept local streets safe and party-goers happy by providing over 41,000 rides.
Operation Red Nose Video
Below is a short promotional video about the program.
To learn more about Canada’s annual Christmas season designated-driver program, see the National Operation Red Nose website.
For information about ORN programs in specific regions of the Lower Mainland, see above.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Metro Vancouver and Lower Mainland Clubs
- Best Christmas Activities
- Top Christmas Things to do in Vancouver
For lists of popular bars and restaurants in the Lower Mainland, check out the following:
- BURNABY‘s Best Restaurants
- The City of VANCOUVER‘s Best Bars & Restaurants
- NORTH VANCOUVER‘s Best Bars & Restaurants
- RICHMOND‘s Best Bars & Restaurants
- SURREY‘s Best Restaurants
- WEST VANCOUVER‘s Best Restaurants