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Driving for a good cause: Cancer program needs more Island volunteers

Wheels for Hope helps Vancouver Island patients receive life-saving cancer treatment in Victoria
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The Wheels of Hope is a volunteer driver program serving Vancouver Island, including the Comox Valley, that provides transportation for residents to access cancer treatment in Victoria. (Photo courtesy of Wheels of Hope)

The Canadian Cancer Society’s (CSS) Wheels of Hope program is seeking volunteers to expand its services throughout the Island and help residents access life-saving cancer treatments in Victoria.

“Thanks to the funding from the B.C. government, we’re able to continue reducing the financial burden and improve outcomes for people in the province going through cancer treatment,” said Wheels for Hope recruitment staff Mark Kahan.

However, Kahan highlighted the pressing need for more volunteer drivers in areas like Comox, Courtenay, Campbell River, and Port Alberni.

“We need at least 10 people (in the Comox Valley), and 15 would be ideal,” said Kahan. “We want to ensure that we can give our current volunteers a break and provide anyone in need with a ride to their treatment in Victoria.”

The typical schedule involves volunteers departing from the Valley at around 8 a.m. to pick up patients along the way, aiming to reach the BC Cancer facility in Victoria by 10:30 a.m. Once patients have completed their treatments, the vehicle usually leaves Victoria at 2 p.m. to make its way back home.

The program offers the option for volunteers to use a fleet vehicle provided by CCS. Moreover, volunteers can choose to drive their own vehicles, with a mileage reimbursement of 45 cents per kilometre.

Kahan added that while the program is flexible and accommodating to volunteers’ schedules, he encourages people to commit for at least six months.

A cause close to his heart, Kahan witnessed firsthand how a small gesture can make a significant impact on others’ lives.

“I actually started out as a volunteer driver. I am a childhood cancer survivor myself and that’s how I got involved. I just love that I was helping out people in my own community and literally making a difference in someone’s life. I was actually humbled by just how most of the people are so incredibly grateful for a stranger driving them. These people lifted my spirits up and they’re just so incredibly grateful for a stranger driving. It really is a great volunteering experience.”

To volunteer at Wheels for Hope, Kahan invites people to contact the organization via email at volunteer@cancer.ca, their toll-free number at 1-888-939-3333, or submit an application at cancer.ca

RELATED: B.C. announces $440 million towards a ‘cancer-free future’

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