DARIEN, Conn. – The 31-year-old Darien Safe Rides program, which has served as a model for teenage ride-along initiatives throughout the country, is in jeopardy of shutting down if it cannot recruit at least three or four parents to serve as leaders.
According to Joe Duwan, one of the organization’s leaders, the program has been searching for lead parents for nearly a year to no avail.
“What we’re lacking is lead parent advisers,” said Duwan. “We continue to have a lot of success with parents who want to volunteer for an evening.”
The program serves Darien High School students as a safe form of transportation home from parties if they have been drinking. It is run out of The Depot, Darien’s innovative teen center, and it operates on a shoestring.
The annual budget is about $2,000, and it requests a one-time $25 fee from the students it shuttles.
Duwan and fellow parent leader Gray Weicker are resigning in several weeks, which is leading to the current crisis. The parent advisers work with about 10 student officers to run the program, and the teen drivers pay for their own gas.
The parents of the teens who participate in the program are asked to volunteer a couple of times a year for a night or two at The Depot to keep things running smoothly. But they are not the lead parents the program needs.
Darien Safe Rides operates Friday and Saturday nights, and averages about five to 15 calls from students looking for rides home after they have been drinking.
“What we need are parents who can serve in a leadership capacity,” Duwan said.