Give a ride, save a life | Community Spirit

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Give a ride, save a life

"What can I do to help?"

It’s the question that the friends and family of cancer patients so often ask. They want to help, they just don’t know how.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) is offering you a chance to help local cancer patients in a very simple way: Just give them a ride.

The “Road to Recovery” program has been providing cancer patients throughout King County with transportation to medical appointments since 1981. While the program has helped thousands, a shortage of volunteer drivers means ACS has to turn away an average of one cancer patient every day needing a ride to the doctor. For many that means taking the bus – exposing them to excess germs or taking excessively longer to get where they’re going. Others are forced to pay for a cab, even if they are struggling with medical expenses. Some even end up missing their treatment. 

“We are desperate for volunteers,” said Amber Guinotte, Quality of Life Manager at ACS. “Transportation is one of the greatest needs among patients.”

Philip Konkel, 68, has been driving patients for ACS for 11 years. After retiring, he was looking for a place to volunteer when ACS called.

Initially, Konkel was concerned the experience would be depressing. But the patients quickly proved him wrong.

“I haven’t regretted it,” Konkel said. “I’ve met some wonderful people, positive thinkers, fighters who don’t give up. It’s been wonderful. They’re so appreciative.”

Konkel typically drives patients about once a week, but volunteers can drive just once a month. After logging 6000 miles for ACS and meeting 98 patients, Konkel has some wonderful stories. Like the time he lost a patient at Virginia Mason after he dropped them off for radiation but tried to pick them up in radiology. For weeks, he drove deaf woman but was able to communicate with by talking with his hands.

“I’ve really enjoyed it found it really rewarding not terribly time consuming,” Konkel said. “You’re doing some damn good work.”

Another time, one of the patients Konkel drove got some bad news from his doctor. The man had no friends or family in Seattle. Konkel listened to how he felt until the man said “Damn it I’m going to fight this! It’s not over yet.”

Volunteers for Road To Recovery are asked to drive as little as once a month. Organizers work around your schedule to be as flexible as possible. ACS also offers mileage reimbursement to drivers.

Volunteers are needed throughout the area. If you can offer your time, just call Guinotte at 425.322.1140. 

“You can help save a life with something as easy as transportation,” Guinotte said. “It means the difference between getting treatment or not.”