Operation Red Nose kicked off its 22nd year in Kamloops with an event Thursday morning, one that brought together volunteers, sponsors and athletes who have benefited from the donations from the annual road safety campaign.
Last year, Kamloops — which is the busiest program in the province — raised over $35,000 to donate to local amateur athletes.
"Any of the funding we raise goes directly to PacificSport and they determine the how that money goes out into the community," says Red Nose coordinator Shanon Guglielmini. "An athlete has to be carded as an elite athlete to be a part of PacificSport, and to get to that level alone is quite financially tough on a family, so PacificSport tries to help them out and get the money back into their travel funds."
Through the program, the non-profit has donated almost $273,000 to athletes in the area to travel for national championships. Another $56,000 has been invested in coaches for their professional development as well as travel expenses.
Among the attendees were racers from the Kamloops Canoe and Kayak Club, Stanley Netherton and Matao Buist (who recently medalled at nationals in Quebec), Emma Guertin and Liam Grover, as well as their coach Stanislav Marek. Curlers Corryn Brown and Erin Pincott were also there representing Team Brown, who just won the B.C. Women's Curling Tour. Finally, speed skater Yolaine Kampman was there from the Kamloops Long Blades.
"Many of these athletes have been recipients of those funds or mom and dad at least have been reimbursed for a portion of that travel cost," says Carolynn Boomer, PacificSport's executive director. "Some are registered with us, some are up-and-coming athletes; all are working hard in their sport journey and their dream of excellence."
PacificSport doesn't identify athletes as elite. That's a designation given to them from their national or provincial sport governing body.
Through donations, Operation Red Nose hopes to raise the same amount of money as last year. It is a loftier goal since they're operating for three fewer days than 2017. But as Mayor Ken Christian noted when he spoke, there should be more need for the service this winter.
"This particular year, we also have the challenge of legalized cannabis, in terms of the mix of things that would lead us to make a responsible decision that we need to access Operation Red Nose and in the process supporting PacificSport and athletes in our community," he says.
Guglielmini says the average donation is around $27 for a ride. They also accept credit cards and donations can also be dropped off at the Tournament Capital Centre, at 910 McGill Rd.
Red Nose still has 600 positions that need to be filled, although they only need about 250 volunteers to fill those spots. They currently have about 60 volunteers signed up.
The service starts up Nov. 30 and runs every Thursday, Friday and Saturday until New Year's Eve.
For more information on volunteering, reach out to Guglielmini by email or call her at 250-320-0650.