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Editor's Note: Cancer society need volunteer drivers

Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 12:00 p.m. CST

As if having cancer wasn’t bad enough, many cancer patients find themselves facing a practical difficulty in getting their treatment: getting there.

Some of these patients don’t have a car or they are unable to drive. They don’t have family or friends nearby who are able to take them to their treatment. It’s a frustrating dilemma.

Luckily, the American Cancer Society has a solution. The thing is, it is dependent on volunteers: people like me and you.

Through its transportation program, the American Cancer Society arranges for a volunteer driver to pick up the patient and drive them to their appointment. Another volunteer – or possibly the same one, if they are still available – takes the patient home after treatment.

According to American Cancer Society patient services rep Kim Mueller, the program is designed to give volunteers complete control over their schedules.

“We have a database of volunteers in the area, when they are available and how far they are willing to drive,” she said. “When a patient calls – we ask them to give us at least two or three days’ notice – we see who is in the area and available, then we give the volunteer a call and see if they can make the drive.”

The local region includes cancer centers in Kane, LaSalle, McHenry and Kendall counties, Mueller said. Occasionally, patients are seeing specialists in Chicago or the suburbs. But most of the time, patients need transportation to and from their local treatment center.

“With so  many treatment centers within our five-county area, if  you only want to travel within five miles of your house, we’re willing to be that specific,” Mueller said. “You can make yourself available every day, every week, or just one time a month if you want. We are just grateful for any time you are willing to donate.”

If a volunteer has a bad experience with a specific patient, their schedule changes or they just change their mind about how often or how far they can drive, the program can accommodate them, she said.

Rising gas prices have cost the society some volunteers, Mueller said. Mileage is tax-deductible as a charitable donation.

Sometimes volunteers develop a relationship with the patient, Mueller said, particularly if the same two are matched up multiple times and if they have a distance to travel.

To volunteer, you have to be 25 or older, have a reliable car, a valid driver’s license, a good driving record and car insurance. You fill out a simple application and go through a one-hour orientation.

The American Cancer Society will have a general volunteer orientation at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 25, at The Cancer Center at Kishwaukee Community Hospital, where you can learn more about this and other volunteer programs with the society. There will be volunteer driver training after the orientation, at 11:30 a.m.

To RSVP for the orientation or for more information, call 630-879-9009, ext. 3.

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