American Cancer Society seeking volunteer drivers
When Audrey Saccardi, a Westlake resident, retired from her career at Key Bank a few years back she began to look for volunteer opportunities to help fill her days. She decided to join a team of three other volunteers from Westlake that drive cancer patients to their treatment. This was a no-brainer for Saccardi – she had just finished her own battle with cancer two years earlier.
In February 2014, Saccardi was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Primary Peritoneal and went through a series of chemotherapy, surgery, then chemotherapy again to remove the disease. While she felt lucky to have a sister-in-law nearby who helped drive her to treatments, she noticed that not everyone was so fortunate. She heard hospital staff talking with other patients about transportation options for when they did not have family available to help. This is how she learned about the American Cancer Society’s transportation service called Road To Recovery.
The Road To Recovery program provides free transportation to cancer patients who need assistance getting to and from their treatment-related appointments. The program is dependent on local volunteers who are willing to donate some time and their passenger seat to get people from their community to treatment centers.
“I personally find this volunteer experience rewarding,” said Saccardi. “One of the most memorable experiences I have is from when I was driving a gentleman to his treatment and his wife came with us. His wife had only recently completed her own cancer treatment, but she wanted to be there to support him. I think that the back-to-back cancer diagnoses put a strain on the couple, so they had to turn to the Road To Recovery program for help.”
Saccardi drives as much as she can for the program. Sometimes she can’t squeeze a ride into her schedule for a few weeks, sometimes she is able to drive three times in one week. Drivers decide on a case-by-case basis when they can help. When she can help, Saccardi says “it is very fulfilling to see the direct impact I can make on someone’s life.”
The program is in need of more volunteers from Westlake, Bay Village and surrounding areas. There has been an increase in ride requests coming from the area and a few more volunteers can help meet the needs of the community.
Volunteers must have a valid driver’s license, a good driving record, a safe and reliable vehicle, access to the internet, and flexible weekday availability. The American Cancer Society will complete a background check on all drivers and provide a volunteer training.
For more information about becoming a Road To Recover volunteer, contact TJ Gerrett at 888-227-6446, ext. 1106, or Torrie.Gerrett@cancer.org. Cancer patients and caregivers who want more information on transportation services can call the American Cancer Society 24-hour hotline at 1-800-227-2345.