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Road to recovery
American Cancer Society seeks volunteer drivers for cancer patients

by Senior Airman Juanika Glover
Thunderbolt staff writer

Dealing with a life-threatening illness like cancer can be a long and stressful journey, but the American Cancer Society has an all-volunteer program designed to help cancer patients get on the road to recovery.

Unfortunately, the program is currently suffering from lack of volunteers and the ACS is calling on Team MacDill for help.

"Many cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments are too weak to drive themselves to their doctor's appointments. Also many live alone or don't have family close by to help them and that's where the Road to Recovery program comes in," said Chris Hubbard, ACS patient service representative.

"The purpose of the Road to Recovery program is to provide cancer patients with transportation to and from their scheduled medical appoints," Ms. Hubbard said. "The volunteer drivers donate their time and personal vehicles to help patients get the lifesaving treatment they need."

Right now there are about 20 volunteers for the Tampa and Brandon area combined, but they need about three times that amount, she added.

The program works on a simple process: A patient who needs transportation calls the ACS to notify them that they need a ride to their appointment. The ACS works with a road coordinator who in turn contacts a team of volunteers to see who is available to take the call.

Volunteers for the program must possess a valid driver's license, car insurance and a clean driving record," Mrs. Hubbard said. Volunteers will also go through an hour and a half training session. To volunteer for the Road to Recovery program, call the ACS at 254-3630.

"In an effort to make the process easier for the patient and volunteer, the ACS also tries to keep volunteers from having to go outside of their zip code," Mrs. Hubbard said. "However, because we're so short on drivers, it doesn't always happen."

For those worried about insurance issues, the American Cancer Society provides liability insurance for the patient and volunteer to cover any accident expense if an accident occurs during the transport of a patient.

After seeing an article in a local newspaper, retired Air Force Col. Peter Ryner answered the call for help and now works as a road coordinator.

"I started volunteering because I had a lot of time on my hands and I wanted to do something helpful. I chose the Road to Recovery program because it's very flexible," Colonel Ryner said. "It's a beneficial program for both the volunteer and the patients. The volunteer is not stuck on a tight schedule. We have some volunteers who only drive every now and then but we have others who drive as much as five times a week."

"I'm glad to be doing what I do," Colonel Ryner said. "There's always something new plus I've made a few friends along the way.

"The more help we can get the better," he added. "I know gas prices are high right now, but now is the time when (cancer patients) need us the most."

Thanks to the many volunteers who have already given their time to the ACS, cancer patients are not alone in their battle. And people wishing to do something positive can join the force of volunteers who are already helping people on the road to recovery

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