April is Cancer Awareness Month, and the Canadian Cancer Society wants the public to be aware it needs volunteer drivers to help cancer patients and their families in Prescott and Russell, and Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry.

Drivers are wanted for the society’s Wheels of Hope program which provides rides to doctor’s appointments and treatments for cancer patients. According to Mark Kahan who coordinates Wheels of Hope volunteer recruitment for the cancer society, there certain communities with particular needs for more drivers.

“We could use at least three volunteers in each of these communities, Plantagenet, St-Isidore, Alexandria, but also to other communities as we want to help out as many people as we can when they need us,” Kahan said.

Patients often require rides to appointments because they are not physically able to drive following treatment, do not have a driver’s licence, or a spouse, family member, friend, or neighbour is not available to drive them.

The cancer society has recently had to decline some ride requests from patients because no volunteers were available.

“We know that if someone cannot find transportation, they don’t go. So, our volunteers are literally making a difference in someone’s life,” said Kahan.

Wheels of Hope operates Monday to Friday only between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., which match the hours of the cancer centre at The Ottawa Hospital. Volunteers must be 18 years of age or older, with three demerits points or less on their driving record. Their vehicle must be 100 per cent smoke free and in reliable condition.

“All of our volunteer drivers must be a least double vaccinated for COVID19 and they are required to wear a mask while transporting our client. The client is required to wear a mask as well. People going through cancer treatment have their immune systems compromised so we want to do everything we can to keep everyone safe,” Kahan said.

All volunteer drivers are reimbursed for fuel costs, either by mileage or through a tax receipt. The cancer society has arrangements with the cancer centre so there are no hospital parking costs for volunteers. 

Wheels of Hope volunteers must also have a criminal record check, but that also is free of charge.

“They would sign up with up with us first, we would give them a letter to take to their local police station and they will provide the check for free because we are non-profit,” explained Kahan.

To become a Wheels of Hope volunteer driver for the Canadian Cancer Society, go to https://cancer.ca/en/living-with-cancer/how-we-can-help/transportation or call 1-888-939-3333.