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B.C. volunteer cancer drivers near recruitment goal, but need becoming greater

Click to play video: 'Volunteer drivers step up for cancer patients, but more help needed'
Volunteer drivers step up for cancer patients, but more help needed
WATCH: The Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society says it will likely reach its goal of signing up 100 new drivers in 100 days. But as Janet Brown reports, the group needs even more volunteer drivers to sign up, with demand growing faster than anticipated – Jun 23, 2023

A Lower Mainland charity dedicated to transporting cancer patients to and from treatment says it’s on the verge of meeting a key recruitment goal.

In March, the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society set out to bring on 100 new drivers in 100 days saying it couldn’t keep up with demand.

The society forecast it would need to provide 29,000 trips this year, up five per cent from last year. But society president Bob Smith said they’re already on track to beat their own estimate by 20 per cent.

Click to play video: 'Driving service for B.C. cancer patients seeks volunteers'
Driving service for B.C. cancer patients seeks volunteers

“The growth of demand of our patients across all of the regions we’re serving, Vancouver in particular, tri-cities, is greater than we expect,” he said.

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But there’s good news. Since the call went out, Smith said 160 people had reached out to apply. Thirty-one of them are already on the road, with another 67 on the way to meeting their requirements, he said.

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Smith said their clients come from all walks of life, and range from children to the frail or elderly. What they all have in common is the need for support.

“They have a lot on their plate with a diagnosis of cancer,” he said.

“We take one of the difficult challenges off the plate. We pick them up at home, we take them to treatment, we wait for them, and we take them back home. This is a huge lift.”

Click to play video: 'Wheels of Hope program needs drivers to shuttle cancer patients to appointments'
Wheels of Hope program needs drivers to shuttle cancer patients to appointments

Brian Watt told Global News he became a volunteer after being diagnosed with colon cancer himself.

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As the disease progressed, he had to let go of other volunteer work — but found out about the society and decided to help.

“I love to drive, I love the people I get to meet, I can communicate with them fairly well, some of them want to talk about their cancer and I’m certainly willing to talk about mine, some of them just want to get there and get it over with and that’s fine too,” he said.

“But they give me a lot of tremendous feedback on how strong they are and how they’re dealing with it, and I hope I give a bit of the same to them.”

While the society is optimistic about meeting its recruitment goal, Smith said they’re still looking for as many volunteers as they can get.

Click to play video: '‘Wheels of Hope’ calls for more volunteer drivers amid shortage'
‘Wheels of Hope’ calls for more volunteer drivers amid shortage

Coordinating volunteer and client schedules is always tricky, he said, and with an aging population the need for cancer treatment is growing.

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Volunteers are reimbursed 55 cents per kilometre they drive, but Smith — a volunteer driver himself — said most report getting a lot more back than that.

“We find that drivers who volunteer get tremendous personal satisfaction from being able to help someone in need,” he said.

You can find out more about how to volunteer at the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society webpage.

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