Wheels of Hope: Volunteer drivers needed in Simcoe/Muskoka area
'We've found that if someone can't find transportation, they don't go'
The Canadian Cancer Society is making a call-out for volunteers interested in driving cancer patients to clinics to access their treatments.
The Wheels of Hope volunteer driver program runs all over Ontario, but the society is seeing a decrease in volunteers throughout the Simcoe/Muskoka region.
Mark Kahan, recruitment coordinator for the program, told Barrie 360 that the demand for cancer patients to get to their treatment has exceeded the number of volunteer drivers.
“We are in urgent need of drivers in Barrie and all over the Simcoe/Muskoka area,” said Kahan. “We are having to reduce or deny service to people.”
Kahan says places looking for volunteers include Barrie, Orillia, Collingwood, Angus, Alliston, and Gravenhurst.
And treatment centres like the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie are not the only destinations patients need to get to. Kahan says they are in need of people willing to drive patients to Toronto as well.
“That’s been our biggest challenge,” said Kahan. “A lot of people don’t want to drive to Toronto and go downtown, and that is where we need volunteers.”
From Barrie to Toronto can be a trek sometimes, and slow-paced if there’s traffic trouble. But, Kahan says the organization does provide mileage reimbursement, plus the aspect of creating connections during the trip is rewarding on multiple fronts.
“The Wheels of Hope doesn’t just benefit the person going through cancer treatment, it benefits our volunteers as well,” said Kahan. “The conversations, the kindness, the compassion, it’s all there. Our volunteers get to meet so many interesting people from all walks of life.
“And sometimes people don’t want to talk about their cancer, they want to talk about the Leafs’ game or they want to share stories about their own history and life experiences. It’s a special time in the vehicle on the way there and on the way home.”
Now, what are the requirements for drivers?
Kahan says they need to be available Monday to Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. when the cancer centres offer treatment. They are required to drive a 100 per cent smoke-free, reliable vehicle and have a good driving record. As well, drivers need to be double vaccinated for COVID-19 and have to wear a mask, same for the clients.
The recruitment coordinator says he started out as a driver prior to his current position and knows the benefits first-hand.
“I loved that I was helping out people in my community and making a difference in someone’s life,” said Kahan. “I was humbled by how most of the people are incredibly grateful for a stranger driving them – the appreciation is really felt. They don’t have to drive or look around for expensive parking, they can relax and focus on themselves and getting well.”
Kahan noted that the program is a stress reliever for the patient’s family as well. Some patients have to go for radiation treatment Monday to Friday for up to six weeks and it can be difficult to ask a family member to take that much time off work.
“Our clients tell us they don’t know what they would have done without this program,” said Kahan. “We’ve found that if someone can’t find transportation, they don’t go. That’s heartbreaking to me that the only thing preventing them from their life-saving treatment is just because they don’t have a ride.”
For more information and how to register to be a volunteer driver, visit the Wheels of Hope website,
And if you have any questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 1-888-939-3333.
Banner image via Wheels of Hope – Canadian Cancer Society