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Wheels of Hope program in dire need of drivers

Wheels of Hope shuttles cancer patients to and from their appointments in the Sault or Sudbury. Currently, there are no drivers locally
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(stock photo)

The Canadian Cancer Society’s transportation program that provides cancer patients rides to and from their cancer treatment appointments is in dire need of volunteer drivers.

An urgent call for volunteers is going out to Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma district, as well as to communities throughout Northern Ontario.

The Wheels of Hope program was shut down during the pandemic and efforts to get it up and running again have been difficult.

“We have been trying to get it back up and serving these communities but haven’t had much success due to COVID. The Wheels of Hope is volunteer driven so without volunteers we can’t help anyone,” said Mark Kahan, recruitment coordinator.

Some communities, like the Sault, don’t have any volunteers, and those that do are having to turn down requests because there are not enough, he said.

Wheels of Hope will shuttle patients to and from their appointments in town or to Sudbury if they are receiving treatment at the hospital there.

Some need a ride because they shouldn’t drive after treatment, don’t have a vehicle or driver’s licence, or don’t want to bother friends or family.

“It’s hard to ask a friend or family member that’s working a full-time job, and the cancer patient feels guilty because they feel like they’re a burden,” said Kahan. 

“The cancer diagnosis doesn’t just affect them. It can affect their whole family and sometimes not only are we helping the person going through their own cancer journey, but we’re also helping the whole family with the situation.”

Kahan used to be a volunteer driver. He says the service provides an easy way for people to get the life-saving treatments they need. 

“The stress in trying to find transportation can be so hard and some just give up and they don’t go and to me that just breaks my heart because all they need is just a lift there and back home,” he said.

While driving, Kahan was “amazed and humbled” by how many clients were just so grateful for a stranger driving them.

“They don’t have to look for expensive parking. They can sit back and relax and focus on themselves and getting well,” he said.

Kahan said volunteering is very rewarding and showed him that small acts of kindness can have big impacts on another person in need.

“The kindness, the compassion, the conversations on the drive there and home. Our volunteers get to meet so many interesting people from all walks of life.”

Volunteers are asked to be available Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at least one-half day a week and up to a few days a month.

Volunteers must have a valid driver’s licence with three or less demerit points and operate a smoke-free, clean, and well-maintained vehicle. They must undergo a criminal background check and need to be double vaccinated for Covid-19. Both the volunteer and client are required to wear a mask in the vehicle.

For more information or to sign up, go to cancervolunteer.ca and click on Wheels of Hope. You can also email at volunteer@cancer.ca or call 1-888-939-3333.