Harry Kroeker has been a volunteer driver since he retired in 2018. (VCDS photo/Special to the Langley Advance)

VIDEO: Volunteer cancer drivers back behind the wheel as of June 22

The group provides patients with rides to doctors appointments and cancer treatments

The Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society is back on the road, soon.

The non-profit that offers rides to cancer patients throughout the Lower Mainland had to stop in mid-March due to the coronavirus.

Now that more is know about the virus, transmission and safety protocols, the society is resuming service starting June 22. People can start booking rides starting June 15.

Before the service shutdown, the volunteer organization started in early 2016 was on track to provide more rides than ever.

“We were projecting to do 27,00o rides in 2020,” said George Garrett, one of the founders.

Now it looks like the society will still be doing 20,000 rides this calendar year.

• Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society of BC

Before the shutdown, there were about 200 volunteer drivers. There are now 150 who have said they are ready to get back to driving cancer patients.

“The drivers are excited about getting back. And the dispatchers, too,” Garrett said.

Langley’s Harry Kroeker set his sights on the drivers society as he approached retirement, knowing he didn’t want to sit around. He lost two siblings to cancer and wanted to help others faced with this disease.

It was just a bonus that the job involved driving, something he enjoyed since he was a young man and worked as a bus driver before going into the greenhouse business.

“I loved interacting with people,” he said.

It’s the same reason why he loves being a volunteer driver but this time, the people in the other seats are burdened with a lot more on their minds. So he works hard at making the journey pleasant for them and tries to chat with them to take their minds off the disease.

“It’s a scary time for people,” Kroeker said.

He’s suggested to others that they should volunteer but received a rather deflating reply – they won’t do something unless it pays. As a child of Russian immigrants who came to Canada in the 1920s, he feels blessed and is happy to give back in any way he can to Canada.

As for being a volunteer, he’s paid with two little words from the cancer patients – thank you.

“You can’t ask for greater reward,” Kroeker said.

So when the service has to shut down, his thoughts turned to the clients.

“How are these poeple going to get there?” Kroeker wondered.

During the pandemic the cancer centres provided clients with taxi vouchers, but Garrett noted that the service just isn’t the same. The cancer drivers will not only take the patient to doctor and treatment appointments but will wait for them and drive them back home.

Kroeker said he made at least 15 trips into Vancouver for one man last year and during one month, drove about 2,000 kilometres.

He’s so ready to get back to driving patients.

“I just spent probably the last hour vacuuming my truck, cleaning the windows,” he chuckled when interviewed on Monday morning, two weeks before the service resumes. “I’m excited to get back to doing it.”

[Story continues below video]

COVID-19 precautions will be in place for drivers and clients including:

– Clients must sit in the back seat, no longer in the front passenger seat.

– Drivers and clients must wear masks.

– Drivers supplied with protective equipment including sanitizer and wipes.

The society, a registered charity that can issue tax receipts, could use some help covering the cost of protective supplies. Donate through the website.

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