Cancer society ditches free rides for patients

Charity blames drop in donations, volunteers to offer rides to cancer treatment

The Canadian Cancer Society is ending its Volunteer Driver Program that provides free rides to cancer patients in Metro Vancouver

The Canadian Cancer Society will stop operating its Volunteer Driver Program that for years has given patients free rides to and from chemotherapy and radiation treatment in many B.C. communities.

The society says declines in donations and volunteers have forced the end of the service, which cost $400,000 a year.

“Unfortunately we’ve had to make the really difficult decision to close the program effective Oct. 6,” said Sandra Krueckl, vice-president of cancer control for the Canadian Cancer Society’s B.C. and Yukon division.

“Donor dollars have been shrinking in recent years,” she said, adding the cancer society has felt the same stresses as many other charities, including a slide in how many hours volunteers are now willing to commit out of their increasingly busy lives.

“As our current volunteers are retiring out of their current volunteer roles, we are not seeing the same number of volunteers coming up behind them.”

About 80 clients per month used the program, which was staffed by roughly 380 volunteers around B.C.

Drivers used their own vehicles and were reimbursed 41 cents per kilometre for gas and wear-and-tear.

Other transportation alternatives exist in most communities, Krueckl said, adding demand for rides had been declining.

She stressed that the Freemasons Cancer Car Program, a separate ride service that the cancer society is a partner in, is unaffected and will continue to operate.

The society asked the province, which already contributes to the operations of its cancer lodges, to provide more funding to support the ride program, but was declined.

“While they certainly were sympathetic to our situation and understood our declining revenue situation and challenges with supporting this program in the future, they have competing priorities,” Krueckl said.

The loss of the cancer society program will be felt mainly in some parts of Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island, she added.

The cancer society is advising clients on what other ride services may be available in each area. They can call 1-888-939-3333.