In January, Grand Bend residents Rosalind and Charles MacDonald attended a 70th birthday party. The celebrant wasn’t a close friend: he was a cancer survivor they had driven to London for treatments, as volunteers with the Canadian Cancer Society’s Wheels of Hope Program. “They introduced us as their angels,” says Roz with a smile.
In 2017, Grand Bend Community Foundation made a grant to the Wheels of Hope program, which matches volunteer drivers like the McDonalds with cancer patients to help them get to appointments and treatments in Sarnia, London and beyond. The grant was used to compensate drivers for the cost of gas.
Caroline Bekkers of Canadian Cancer Society Sarnia-Lambton says there are as many as 30 rides a day provided to patients in the region. Apart from a nominal registration fee, patients pay nothing for the service. The volunteer drivers pick patients up at their homes, wait while they have their appointment, and then drive them home again. The time commitment can be anything from two or three hours to a full day.
Charles began volunteering with the program in 2008, shortly after losing his sister to breast cancer. “It takes one element of stress away for patients and families,” he says. “They don’t have to worry about the driving conditions or where to park.” Rosalind agrees, adding, “Sometimes you see a huge change from when the patient goes in to when they come out. Even the caregiver is in a different space if they’ve received bad news.”
Roz and Charles are both busy volunteers in the Grand Bend community, but they make Wheels of Hope a priority. Charles says some clients want to share their stories and seek comfort, and others are quiet in the car. Says Roz, “For me the reward is in connecting with someone when they’re at their most vulnerable. We don’t want people to be alone at such a trying time.”