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Kelowna dad's crusade to get kids home safe passes significant milestone

It's been five years since Paul Nesbitt decided he wanted to save lives in his spare time.

He was watching a MADD ad on TV, and turned to his wife to note that dads were strangely absent from the conversation about drinking and driving prevention.

It was a gap that needed to be filled, so  the Kelowna man, who had a full-time job already, decided to get a taxi license from the city, rally together some fellow dads and get his volunteer chauffeur concept incorporated.

Canadian Designated Driver Dads Inc. came to life May 2009, and since then a few dedicated men started driving the club loop to help young people make the right decision about drinking and getting behind the wheel.

It's a free service, although donations are welcome.  And for that reason alone it's not surprising that it's been a hit.

"It's almost gone viral with the kids talking about it and giving cards out for it; they promote it themselves," Nesbitt said, noting that the service ensures that both the drinker and their car make it home safely.

"We're driving 10 sets of people home every night… so 20 sets of people on a weekend. At first people thought we were crazy."

It's not always the most fun volunteer effort—imagine putting yourself in the line of drunk young people night after night. But Nesbitt said he's happy to be there and he knows he's making a difference.

When asked for an example, he immediately recalled two cases where young women who had been slipped a date rape drug found refuge in his car.

"One we got home safe and sound and then followed up the next day with calls to make sure she was OK," he said. "The other girl we immediately took to the hospital."

Both he said, were completely vacant, out of control and vulnerable. And, today, they're both safe.

"We try our best," he said.

Nesbitt is always looking for new dads to help out in the effort. There are 17 who have been vetted and placed on his on-call list, but only around six are regulars.

"It's a hard sell to get someone to stay up on a Friday and Saturday night," he said. "You're tired from work, and you just want to sleep."

And there's always the guff they get from commercial enterprises. Those concerns are easy enough to assuage, though.

"We just point out that this is volunteer," he said.

And, on the bright side, there's been a tremendous amount of community support.

Source Graphics recently donated 50,000 business cards that they'll use to get the message out. And, Orchard Ford donates a car filled with gas to use every weekend.

"They've been so generous," he said.

As the busiest weekends in the summer get started, however, Nesbitt knows their services will be well used.

He's always looking for more dads to help out, and said one quality will really come in handy.

"You need to be the type of dad who's willing to think about everyone else's kids, too," he said.

For more information on how to get involved, go to http://designateddriverdads.com/

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