Lower Mainland, BC – An increasingly essential resource across the Lower Mainland, not-for-profit Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society (VCDS) is proudly celebrating a landmark anniversary Saturday, February 29. Since its formation in 2016, the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society’s 200+ drivers and dispatchers have provided upwards of 55,688 free rides to cancer patients in need, driving a combined 1,640,287 kilometres.
Entering their fifth year, this entirely volunteer-run service looks to continue to alleviate the stress on cancer patients across the Lower Mainland and to keep up with ever-growing demand.
With demand for transportation increasing by 30-35% per year, the volunteer drivers are expected to offer 27,700 rides in 2020, logging 750,000 km — or the equivalent of 120 trans-Canada road trips. They are entirely reliant on the fundraising efforts of their volunteers and the generosity of individual donors and community-minded organizations.
The patients the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society drives are as diverse as their volunteers. They include immigrants who are far away from their families, single mothers who need assistance accompanying themselves and their children to and from appointments and individuals who live far from Metro Vancouver and cannot afford the hundred-dollar taxi fare into the city. Many patients served by VCDS are elderly. BC statistics show that 90% of cancer patients are age 60 and older.
Vivian Ginter relied on her son and neighbour to drive her to her treatments. When both tragically died of cancer, Ginter turned to the VCDS for support. Of her experience with VCDS, Ginter says the service is invaluable: “You’ll never know how many hearts you have eased and spirits you have lifted.”
More than just convenience and transportation, the VCDS offers meaningful connection for cancer patients who may otherwise be isolated and alone at an extremely sensitive and frightening moment in their lives. This service provides relief not only for the patients but also for family and friends who may not be able to offer immediate support: “My brother Byron needed transport from Surrey to the VGH BMT-AML Unit for Chemo over 4 months. I could not be there for him but [VCDS] drivers were,” Randy Hauer says. “Byron was rested, at ease and the kind company put him in a healing frame of mind. [The VCDS] are Angels on Wheels. Thank you is not enough to say.”
Following the Canadian Cancer Society’s 2015 decision to no longer provide free transportation to cancer patients, former Canadian Cancer Society drivers John McInnes and Garth Pinton were determined that vulnerable cancer patients would not lose an indispensable support network. They founded the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society, along with veteran reporter George Garrett to ensure patients would receive care. Supported by a $30,000 one-time start grant by the provincial government, they fundraised, recruited drivers and grew the Society into a beloved service, one that provides concrete help, companionship and hope to cancer patients. With an exciting year ahead of them, the VCDS’s priority is meeting demand. They hope to welcome more drivers and dispatchers and to grow the service in step with the increasing number of patients who rely on them, while always keeping the patients, friends and families of those affected with cancer front of mind, both in its fifth year and in the decades ahead.
The Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society The Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society is a free service that lessens the burdens of cancer patients in the Lower Mainland. Founded in 2016, and entirely volunteer-run, the Society drives patients who otherwise have no access to private transportation to and from treatment appointments, providing both essential support and peace-of-mind. Volunteers make more than 20,000 trips every year, in addition to supporting more than 20% of the Society’s overall annual budget for mileage reimbursements.
Areas served are North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, the Tri-Cities (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody), Delta, Surrey, White Rock, Langley, Abbotsford, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and Mission.