For the past few years, the American Cancer Society Road to Recovery program in Bradford has struggled to keep a steady supply of volunteer drivers to transport cancer patients to treatments that can save their lives.
The program, which provides a van for volunteers to take patients to appointments, is once again putting out an appeal for volunteer drivers. A local coordinator of the program said the situation has become so dire that there are just three drivers available to transport a number of patients in the community. The coordinator said volunteer drivers provide rides to and from treatment for those who don’t have a ride or are unable to drive themselves.
Volunteer Judy LeRoy, who is retired, said she has driven for the program the past four years.
“I want to give back to the community in some small way, and this is a very small way I could do it,” she said of her volunteer driving. “I am very grateful to have the opportunity to do this.”
LeRoy said she enjoys her visits with the patients as many are grateful for the rides to their treatment.
“As you drive, you connect with these people and you become friends,” LeRoy said.
As for the program, it was made more convenient for volunteers in the Bradford area thanks to a van that was donated a couple of years ago for the transport of Road to Recovery patients. The van, which is gassed up and has a number of amenities including a GPS to provide directions, was donated by George Duke of Zippo Manufacturing Co. The local program is one of the few in the country that has a van for the transports.
A Bradford woman, who asked that her name not be used, said she is grateful for the occasional rides provided by the program to her daily radiation treatments in Olean, N.Y.
“It helps a lot, especially when you don’t drive,” the woman said. “It’s hard to find (drivers) but I had someone take me yesterday through the cancer society.”
She noted that when a Road to Recovery driver isn’t available, she tries to get her relatives to help.
“(Wednesday) my nephew took me because there were no drivers” with Road to Recovery, she added, noting the daily ritual of lining up drivers is stressful. “It’s like pulling teeth to get a ride sometimes.”
LeRoy said that in addition to Olean, volunteer drivers can be asked to take people to facilities in areas in Buffalo, N.Y., as well as Coudersport, Warren, Erie and Pittsburgh.
Potential drivers have to be between the ages of 21 and 84 and have a good driving record. The drivers will also be vetted through a criminal background check.
The organization can contact drivers by email to schedule runs. Drivers can also set schedules that meet their needs.
For more information on volunteering for the program, contact the American Cancer Society at 800-227-2345.