Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS                                Former CKNW radio reporter George Garrett and Larry Coleman were in Maple Ridge trying to round some volunteer drivers.

Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS Former CKNW radio reporter George Garrett and Larry Coleman were in Maple Ridge trying to round some volunteer drivers.

Volunteer cancer drivers needs help in Maple Ridge helping others

Needs more volunteers here to give cancer fighters free rides to chemo

Larry Coleman needs help with his gas bill. It can run up to more than $100 a week, when he’s in his pickup truck driving people fighting cancer back and forth to their chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Coleman is with the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society, which helps people get to their appointments during the times family and friends can’t.

When people are fighting for their lives, it’s tough keeping to a therapy schedule, so as a result, it comes down to volunteers to fill the gap by offering free rides.

“Radiation is five days a week,” says Coleman, director of the Surrey-based group.

“After a while, they run out of family and friends.”

“It’s pretty hard for a family to do that,” added George Garrett, vice-president.

They were in Maple Ridge recently to raise funds to help pay for the gas bills of volunteers. While the drivers aren’t paid for their time, their gas is covered.

Coleman is from Port Moody and does about five trips a week. Each one can include driving patients to the hospital, then waiting for them to complete therapy, and taking them home again. Sometimes, if the schedule works out, another driver will cover the return trip.

The society has no employees and no office and just one phone line and dispatcher.

Last year, the society received cash donations from Surrey, Delta, Langley and North Vancouver and soon will be making the same request in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

Fire departments are also approached because the group helps firefighters who suffer from occupation-related cancers.

Every month, the society burns through about $13,000 in fuel costs for its drivers.

But the group needs not only financial help, but personal help. At least 10 drivers are needed in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

A police record check and driver’s abstract is required.

All told, the society has 62 drivers, but only four in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

• The society can be contacted at volunteercancerdrivers.ca.