By JAYMIE L. WHITE
Special to the Appalachian
BAY ST. GEORGE – The local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada has been especially busy this past week. Not only did the group celebrate its 20th anniversary in this on Dec. 3, but they are well into their annual Red Ribbon Campaign. The annual awareness campaign is aimed at promoting sober driving during the holiday season.
Florence Higgins, President of the Bay St. George Chapter of MADD Canada, said the wearing or displaying of the red ribbon is a symbol of the person’s commitment to never drive impaired.
“The campaign began in 1988 and is held across Canada every year from November 1 to January 3. The holiday season is the busiest time of the year and people tend to party and socialize more. Many people will drink or do drugs and get behind the wheel,” said Higgins.
Higgins said with the many restrictions put in place during COVID, their fundraising efforts have been affected.
“Each year we have distributed Red Ribbon boxes to businesses in the area with ribbons in them and a collection slot for donations; however, with COVID we have not done this last year and again this year.”
In Stephenville Mall MADD has set up a Christmas tree, which the chapter and town council unveiled on Nov. 30.
“We set this up in the mall because it is the hub of shopping in our area and we hope this will be a reminder to people to make responsible decisions this holiday season,” said Higgins. “Never drive impaired or get in with someone who is impaired, plan ahead if you will be having a drink or consuming drugs. Call a cab, arrange a safe ride or stay overnight, and call 911 if you suspect a driver is impaired.”
Higgins said there are a variety of other ways that the chapter is using to raise awareness.
“This year we also have pole banner/posters along Main Street reminding people not to drive impaired,” said Higgins. “There will be a basket of red ribbons next to the tree for anyone to pick up to tie on their vehicle, key chain, backpack et cetera.”
According to MADD Canada, an average of 10 federal criminal charges and provincial short-term license suspensions are laid for alcohol or drug-impaired driving every hour in Canada.
Coun. Myra White, who was present at the unveiling, believes it is extremely important for the town to show support.
“I believe that the mayor and councillors selected by the people are chosen not only for their ability to lead the municipality, but to be examples to the younger generation in the community,” said White. “The community has to be educated on what could happen if people drink and drive, someone who takes the lead to have conversations prior to going. We all know or have experienced first-hand especially during the Christmas season, that someone we know will disregard the ‘don’t drink and drive’ rule. We have to stand up and be a voice of reason.”
White said the holiday season is especially key to raising awareness.
“Project Red Ribbon is important to me because I feel that young people are being educated on what could happen and if one person chooses to not drink and drive, one life can be saved.”
On Dec 2nd, Mayor Tom Rose signed a proclamation that declared Dec 2. 2021 as Project Red Ribbon Day in Stephenville.
“Today we are signing a proclamation that really raises the awareness of safe driving, especially this time of year,” said Rose “Every year people lose their lives, get severely injured or suffer minor injuries from people who are drinking and driving, and it’s very hurtful. The Red Ribbon Campaign is really designed to raise the attention to keep our families safe on the highways and also to help support the families of victims.”