Anafrancesca Comunale and Sara Sanborn have been involved in Girl Scouts since kindergarten. Now high school juniors, the two La Jolla teens are working to earn the organization’s highest award, the Gold Award, with a project and event called Operation R.E.D. (Responsible Educated Drivers).
The event will take place from 2 to 11 p.m. Oct. 18 at Golden Hall in downtown San Diego. The nine-hour event, targeted at teenagers and college students, is free with preregistration.
Comunale, a student at The Bishop’s School, and Sanborn, who attends Cathedral Catholic High School, began working toward the Gold Award several months ago. In order to qualify, their project had to be something that filled a need in the community and created change.
Initially they proposed putting on a fashion show to benefit a homeless shelter but had trouble finding a location.
As they considered other cause-worthy issues, they became aware of how easily drivers could be distracted, especially young, inexperienced drivers. While many agencies and organizations focus on the dangers of drunk driving, Comunale and Sanborn felt more education should be done to address behaviors such as texting or adjusting musical devices like iPods.
“I kind of wanted to bring this issue to people’s attention,” Comunale said.
After submitting three proposals, the teens received approval to move ahead with the project. As a result of hundreds of hours of phone calls, planning, fundraising, organizing speakers, recruiting volunteers and organizing everything from publicity to building a Web site, Operation R.E.D. promises to be a spectacular event.
“Since this project, I’ve had to do so many things I’ve never had to do,” said Comunale, likening the experience to running a business.
Operation R.E.D. blends education with fun, a combination Comunale and Sanborn hope will entice their peers to attend. They need at least 200 attendees to qualify for the Gold Award.
Several innovative workshops, interactive exhibits and well-credentialed speakers will provide information about the risks of unsafe road habits, such as driving while drunk or sleepy, and being distracted by cell phones or other devices.
Presenters include Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of USA Freedom Corps Henry Lozano and San Diego Deputy District Attorney Enrique Camarena, Jr., the son of DEA agent Enrique Camarena, Sr., whose death inspired the wearing of red ribbons to symbolize the difference a single person can make.
Organizations such as MADD, California Highway Patrol, State Farm, the American Red Cross and others will also be on hand to distribute information. Food vendors will offer food and refreshments at discounted prices.
Two special programs will be highlighted during Operation R.E.D.
“Graduation Day,” a 30-minute film produced by the Pack Foundation about teen drunk driving which will be distributed to every high school in the U.S., will premiere at the event.
San Diego District Attorney Perry will preside over a mock trial written by one of Comunale’s classmates.
“It goes through the dramaticized truth of what happens when a minor is involved in a drunk driving accident,” Comunale said.
The night will conclude with dance and live performances by five bands. Dave Mason, a DJ with The Walrus FM 105.7, will host Love It Or Leave It, Jacqueline Grace Lopez, Harriet Berholtz, Dave Humphries and The Baja Bugs. During the dance, teens will be given T-shirts and segregated to demonstrate the number of deaths attributed to drunk driving every 15 minutes.
“If one student makes the decision not to drink, and even better, not to drink and drive or not get into the car with a drunk driver … this event will have fulfilled its purpose,” Comunale said.
To register for Operation R.E.D., go to