It’s been less than a year since the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society got up and running in Chilliwack.
“I think we are making a real difference,” explained Gord Locke, director of external communications, who is also a volunteer driver himself.
So far the group has logged 439 trips to cancer appointments for 67 patients, with the help of 16 active drivers.
“That’s a lot of rides for just 16 drivers,” Locke pointed out. “It shows there’s growing demand for the service, and we could really use some more drivers.”
The volunteers provide door-to-door service to cancer centres in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, focused mainly on BC Cancer destinations, including regional centres in Abbotsford, Surrey and Vancouver, as well as some doctor’s appointments as well.
“Since COVID, people are reluctant to take public transit. But for cancer patients with immune compromised systems, transit is just not a viable option,” Locke added.
Some of the patients can be facing five or six weeks of daily treatments and can benefit from the help of compassionate volunteers.
BC Cancer is estimating there could be 650 new cancer diagnoses in Chilliwack alone this year, with an estimate of 10,000 for the entire Fraser Health region.
“So that increases the demand for drivers as well since one patient can require 20 to 30 rides,” Locke said.
So far the program is a local success.
“We are we certainly very grateful for the drivers we have now,” he underlined. “We know the patients are most appreciative of the rides they get. As a driver myself I can tell you it’s a very humbling, and rewarding experience.”
To become a cancer driver, the volunteer must have a vehicle in good working order that they’re willing to use, with $3 million in liability insurance, and a relatively clean ICBC driving abstract, with nothing major on it.
The volunteer chauffeurs are required to remain at the facility in order to provide immediate transportation home again following treatment. There’s free parking for the most part, with licence plate recognition technology available at most sites.
The volunteers receive a monthly reimbursement based on mileage.
Before they start, volunteers do an orientation run with an experienced volunteer cancer driver, travelling to all the treatment facilities in the Lower Mainland, and going over all the procedures. Prospective drivers must also apply for a criminal records check.
Anyone interested in becoming involved can go to the website, undergo the screening process, and sign on to be cancer drivers, by filling out an application at www.volunteercancerdrivers.ca
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