Volunteer program rolls on

Driver network helps cancer patients get to appointment.

George Garrett (foreground) and John MacInnes have helped launch the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society

George Garrett (foreground) and John MacInnes have helped launch the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society

Laurel Stanley is quick to admit she doesn’t like asking for help.

But the South Surrey senior was left in “quite a pickle” last month, when doctors treating her inflammatory breast cancer told her she’d no longer be able to drive herself to treatments at Vancouver General Hospital.

With no family in the area, and friends with busy work schedules, Stanley called around some support groups with no success – until her daughter-in-law came across the website for a new organization called the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society (www.volunteercancerdrivers.ca).

Launched earlier this year, the group of volunteer drivers and dispatchers has taken the place of the Canadian Cancer Society’s driver program, which was closed last October due to operating costs.

Cloverdale resident John MacInnes, a longtime driver with the cancer society’s program, was one of a handful of volunteers to step up to the plate.

“There were a lot of cancer patients and their families that were put in a very precarious situation,” MacInnes told Peace Arch News. “It caused a lot of stress, which you don’t need when you’re fighting cancer.”

At the request of the new group, the Canadian Cancer Society sent out an email to the former program’s volunteer network and, according to fellow co-ordinator George Garrett, things came together “very quickly.”

The society was officially formed at the end of February, and in the first two months, drivers logged 950 hours on 295 patient drives.

“And 137 of those were in Surrey, South Surrey and White Rock – that’s where the bulk of our driving is,” Garrett said.

The program is offered free of charge to cancer patients in the Lower Mainland who need transportation to and from treatment or doctor appointments. Drivers pick patients up from their homes, wait and drive them back home afterwards.

Costs of the program – which cover gas – have run close to $4,000 per month, Garrett said. Citing sponsorship from Surrey, Delta and the Surrey Fire Fighters Association, Garrett said ongoing support is needed to continue.

For Stanley, the service has been a “wonderful help” during an otherwise difficult time.

“On top of what you’re going through, when you come home from your treatments, you’re so out of sorts,” Stanley said. “There’s no way you could do it on public transit.

“When I get through this, I’m going to (volunteer) too.”