February 19, 2020

“Road to Recovery”

Volunteers needed for cancer patient transportation program


OSCODA COUNTY — The American Cancer Society is partnering with the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in order to ease transportation burdens for those diagnosed with cancer in the county.

American Cancer Society Program Manager Denise Dunn said last year roughly 60 requests for transportation from cancer patients went unfulfilled in the last year. Her hope is to never see that happen again.

“It is heartbreaking, because we know someone is out there that needs the ride,” Dunn said. “It’s very sad, and very difficult. We can try to piece together other resources for them, but a volunteer driver becomes like their support, letting them know they’re not fighting cancer alone.”

Dunn said it is an unfortunate reality that those diagnosed with cancer in Northern Michigan have fewer options at their disposal to get assistance when needed.

“Sadly, rural Northern Michigan has limited public access and resources for transportation,” she said. “They’re there, but it can be expensive.”

In order to combat the issue, the two organizations are pooling their resources to find more volunteers. Dunn said if one person comes forward to offer their time to drive residents to hospital visits for the cancer society, then they will also be asked if they’d like to volunteer to help drive for the senior volunteer program as well. The added benefit for residents who drive for both programs is that they are able to receive paid mileage if they drive for the senior volunteer program.

According to Dunn, the Road to Recovery program is tailored to allow volunteers to choose how often and how far they drive. She said a volunteer will never be forced to make a drive they are uncomfortable with. Those who volunteer are given access to a database that shows all requested rides and are able to choose which ones they undertake.

Dunn said in her experience, those who volunteer generally become a source of strength for the diagnosed individuals.

“Many of our drivers have gone through cancer themselves; they’re survivors or caregivers,” Dunn said. “Other times it’s just someone who wants to do something good. They become (the patients’) friends and sometimes their support.”

Dunn believes four to six volunteers are needed in Oscoda County to fill the number of monthly requests. She said as of now, an average of five calls for transportation go unserviced each month. Having six new volunteers would ensure there are enough people in case certain drivers are unavailable at any time.

Those who volunteer are vetted by the American Cancer Society for safe driving and criminal records. She said orientation and background checks generally take two weeks to complete. Upon completion, drivers are able to begin choosing rides to accomplish immediately.

For more information on how to volunteer, call 1-800-227-2345.


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