LETHBRIDGE - "It was crazy. We didn't know anything about what was happening. We didn't have phones that worked until about half an hour before the service started."
Sandy Slavin has fond memories of 1995, when she and Pronghorn Athletics brought Operation Red Nose to Lethbridge. The former U of L athletic director, who retired in 2015, was honoured Tuesday, Nov. 14 as Operation Red Nose was launched for its 23rd year in the city.
"I felt really strongly that for someone to be here for 20 years and do the great job that she has done, we really needed to do a proper thank-you," Marie-Chantal Fortin, national development coordinator for Operation Red Nose, said about Slavin, who announced her retirement in 2015. "She was instrumental for us in developing the program and giving it a really good reputation in Western Canada."
The program provides rides home for people during the Christmas and New Year's entertaining season, using their own vehicles with volunteer drivers. Donations are accepted, but there is no fee.
Volunteers from the community take part, but the majority are from Pronghorn Athletics. Fortin presented Slavin with a special volunteer's vest signifying her as an Operation Red Nose Hall of Famer.
Slavin recalled learning about Operation Red Nose while driving through Calgary, at a time when the athletics program needed to raise money. That continues today, with more than $690,000 raised over 22 years.
"I think it's a testimony, one, to Sandy's perseverance," said Ken McInnes, the university's executive director for sport and recreation, "and certainly, all of the group of volunteers that have worked with her before."
He said it works in Lethbridge thanks to its partners, and the greater community and volunteer support.
"It's a lot of fun. It's a crazy night, it's late, but the community supports it and our athletes are all involved, and it's a chance to sort of bring everyone together."
Operation Red Nose will be available the nights of Nov. 24, 25, Dec. 1, 2, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, and 31, during the hours of 9:30 p.m.-3 a.m.
People are still welcome to apply to volunteer, especially for New Year's Eve, by contacting Pronghorn Athletics.
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