The Canadian Cancer Society’s “Wheels of Hope” program is looking for new volunteers in Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks and High River.
Wheels of Hope picks up people undergoing cancer treatment at their homes and transports them to and from their appointments free of charge in Calgary.
Mark Kahan, who is a volunteer recruiter with Wheels of Hope, said the need for drivers in the four communities has become acute.
“We find if someone can’t find transportation, they don’t go,” he said. “That’s heartbreaking to me. The only thing preventing them from their lifesaving treatment is because they don’t have a ride.”
Kahan said the Canadian Cancer Society was forced to shut down their Wheels of Hope program during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of its regular drivers chose not to come back after it restarted again.
“We lost a lot of volunteer drivers through that,” he confirmed. “Many of them took the opportunity to retire.”
Kahan said the lack of drivers at the moment does not mean the need for this type of program has lessened.
“There are several reasons why people need this service,” he explained. “Mostly because they don’t have a car, or they shouldn’t be driving after their treatments. It can be a huge burden to a family if some people have to go for up to six weeks of radiation treatments Monday to Friday. It can be tough for a family member to take that time off work– that’s where Wheels of Hope comes in. It takes a lot of stress off their plates.”
According to Kahan, the program is not only vital for its clients to help them in their moment of greatest need, but is also personally fulfilling for all the drivers who undertake this important work.
“We hear quite often from our volunteers (through) the experience they feel are getting more out of it than the clients they are transporting,” Kahan said. “It’s the compassion and the conversations on the drive home. The volunteers get to meet so many interesting people from all walks of life.”
Those wishing to apply to become a Wheels Hope driver can do so at www.cancervolunteer.ca.
Kahan said volunteers can give as little or as much time as they want to help out their neighbours in this way.
“We are very flexible,” he explained. “My plea is if someone has a half a day a week, or even a few weekdays a month to spare, to consider volunteer driving for us. We offer mileage reimbursements, and it really is a heartwarming experience. You are helping out someone from your own community.”
For more information on the Canadian Cancer Society’s Wheels of Hope program email [email protected] or call 1-888-939-3333.