According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, in 2011, 9,878 people died nationally in drunken driving accidents. One Baraboo organizations wants to lower this number, one safe ride at a time.
Bar Buddies Boo officially launched its program over Memorial Day weekend, providing rides to — and more importantly from — Baraboo bars.
Project coordinator Mel Blue said the idea for Bar Buddies Boo started in January when Amber Hulett, coordinator of Bar Buddies Sauk, approached Blue and asked her if she’d be interested in starting a Baraboo version of the successful Sauk program.
“Idle hands, you know? I was bored, and I was talking to Amber one day about doing something, even if it was volunteering. Amber is the coordinator for the Sauk program, so she asked what I thought about bringing the program here,” Blue said.
Blue, a stay-at-home mom of three, thought about it and agreed, raising money from January until April to get the program off the ground. The group raised enough to purchase a bus. Soon after, Holly Fenske came on board as secretary of Bar Buddies Boo.
With donation buckets set up around the community and a lot of phone calls and meetings, Bar Buddies Boo came to fruition. It was introduced to the community during Wine Walk and was active for a poker run a couple weeks later before the first official weekend in the books over Memorial Day weekend.
The first night, Blue said, the group had six calls. There were 38 calls Saturday night.
Rides to the bars come at a fee: $5 for one person, $8 for two people and $10 for three people, but rides home from the bars are free, even for those who didn’t use Bar Buddies Boo to get to the bars. Hours are 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
The program’s drivers all are volunteers for now, and there must be two people from Bar Buddies Boo in the bus at all times because of safety and liability concerns. Organizers hope drivers eventually will be paid from a Department of Transportation grant, but for now “tips are appreciated,” Blue said.
“Our goal is to try and raise enough money to buy a second bus within six months,” Fenske said.
Blue added, “That will enable us to go to North Freedom and Rock Springs, and the casino, too.”
Running Bar Buddies Boo is personal to both Blue and Fenske. Both lost people they cared about to drunken drivers.
Blue also said on more than one occasion she
has been called to get people out of “the drunk tank.”
Law enforcement and bar owners have been very supportive of Bar Buddies Boo, Blue and Fenske said. In fact, most of the board is made up of bar owners, tavern league members and law enforcement. Baraboo Police Chief Mark Schauf is on the board as well.
“The board is absolutely amazing,” Blue said. “And we’ve had an amazing response from bar owners in town. Everyone wants to make sure they have a poster.”
The boundaries are as far as M and M’s on County Road BD, B and D’s on 12 on the way to Sauk Prairie and all the way out to Frankie’s Bar on Highway 113.
But Blue said that while drivers will pick people up from establishments within those limits, they will take people home outside the area.
“To take people home … we’ll get you home to where you need to go,” Blue said. “The night of the poker run, we had to drive someone out to Lake Delton. He kept apologizing. I said, ‘Don’t be sorry. This is what we do.’”
Blue said she prefers people catching a ride with them rather than stumbling down the highway home, or worse, getting into a car with someone else who has been drinking.
“I want people to know it’s not just a service for people out drinking. It is a service for the whole entire community to keep the intoxicated people from drunk driving, to make the streets safer for everybody,” Fenske said.
Bar Buddies Boo
What: Rides to and from area bars.