Williamsburg volunteers needed to provide transportation to cancer patients

Mother Teresa of Calcutta is quoted as saying, "Do ordinary things with extraordinary love."

Those simple words could aptly describe the spirit behind those who volunteer to provide rides to cancer patients who need transportation to their treatments.

The American Cancer Society's Road to Recovery program has been helping people throughout greater Williamsburg and Hampton Roads by providing the much needed service. According to information provided by the American Cancer Society, many patients do not have a car or are simply too ill to drive to area centers to receive treatment. While family and friends help, sometimes they can't provide every trip. In many cases, cancer patients don't have local family and must depend on other means.

More drivers from Williamsburg are needed. Anne Barclay, mission delivery specialist for the American Cancer Society, oversees the entire volunteer program for Virginia. She said the Road to Recovery is among the most important.

"The most utilized program is the Road to Recovery because patients need to get to their life-saving treatments," Barclay said in a recent interview. "We have nine very active drivers on the Peninsula. That doesn't sound like a lot but those drivers are a small but mighty team, they are all active and are driving regularly."

Barclay added that the program was halted a few months ago for lack of drivers. Requests were pouring in, but there were no drivers to accommodate. The nine people received training and are providing the needed service, mostly in lower Hampton Roads. However, in Williamsburg there aren't enough drivers signed up who can provide regular transportation.

That means local hospitals can't refer patients because there isn't a corps of local volunteers. Barclay hopes that will change.

"We are always in need of more drivers," she said.

Sandy Croushore, a seventh-grade math teacher at Lois Hornsby Middle School, has served as a Road to Recovery volunteer during the summer months for the past few years. When school starts, however, she is unable to continue volunteering, but is willing to drive when her schedule permits.

She found about the program a few years ago when participating in the local Relay for Life. She thought it sounded like a great way to help. As a five-year breast cancer survivor, Croushore said the program gives her a chance to give back.

In her tenure, she has provided rides to people needing transportation to the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute and Sentara Careplex Hospital.

"These are appointments for cancer patients for their chemotherapy, radiation, doctor's appointments or to see other specialists," Croushore said recently. "The people I have driven either didn't have a car or were too sick to drive. This service really helps them out. They need the treatment but may not have the means to get there, especially if they have no family in the area."

As a survivor, she is empathetic. "I understand their situation better," she said. "All cancer is different, but as a survivor you have a better idea of what they are going through."

Sometimes the conversations focus on the treatments, other times, they talk only about generalities.

"It is whatever they feel comfortable talking about," she said. "We may just end up talking about sports or weather or the traffic."

Croushore said that the program is an ideal fit for her and she is glad to help whenever she can. "Providing service to people in need in the community is important," she said. "It is an important service for people to do, and an important service for people to take advantage of. It is both ways."

"Our drivers are amazing," Barclay said. "They all have their own stories and their own reasons for volunteering. They say it is a rewarding thing for them to do. I hear that over and over. They are saving lives. They are getting people to treatments they would normally not be able to get to."

Barclay said the criteria to drive is simple. Those 18-85 years old with a good driving record, a valid driver's license, auto insurance and a vehicle that is in good working condition can apply. Background and DMV checks are required. Training is provided online.

Barclay said participating may be a good fit for those who are retired and are looking to stay busy.

"All of my drivers are the busiest people I know," she said. "They are retired and work more now then they did when they were working full time."

Croushore hopes more people will sign up to be drivers.

"There are so many who will help if they are asked," Croushore said. "And the Road to Recovery is one of those ways."

Want to help?Call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 or Anne Barclay 757 493-7946 or e-mail anne.barclay@cancer.org