These compassionate chauffeurs help cancer patients in a time of need

Feb 4 2022, 9:16 pm

For volunteer cancer driver Larry Coleman, every trip is a unique experience. And the compassionate chauffeur has recently achieved a driving milestone in his journey, having completed 1,000 patient rides.

Coleman is a volunteer driver and a Director at Large for Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society (VCDS), a not-for-profit organization providing complimentary transportation for Lower Mainland residents battling cancer.

“Some trips are filled with tears, but I always try to get a smile or laugh to brighten their day,” said Coleman in an interview with Daily Hive. “With one patient, we would listen to the oldies station and see who could guess the name of the song and artist. Once that was accomplished, we would sing along with the radio. Anyone driving by us must have thought we were crazy. It didn’t matter; it was fun for us both.”


“The patients are so very thankful for the rides. It relieves them of the stress of how they will make it to and from their appointments,” shared Coleman. “Some radiations are 35 appointments, so that is a trip every day for seven weeks just for radiation, let alone oncologist and possible chemo appointments.”

According to George McAffer, Executive Vice President and Director of Driver Operations for VCDS, the not-for-profit organization was founded by Garth Pinton, George Garrett and John MacInnes following the Canadian Cancer Society’s BC and Yukon decision to end their ride service in 2015.

“The VCDS is a dedicated group of community-minded citizens who have banded together with the sole purpose of providing cancer patients in need with assured, safe transportation and emotional support,” said McAffer. “We are entirely dependent on volunteers to get cancer patients in need to all their treatments. It’s especially important because missed treatments increase the risk of cancer recurring.

“The need for our service continues to grow, so more volunteers are required to meet that demand.”

The all-volunteer organization currently has 296 drivers, 15 dispatchers, 10 board members and six to eight support persons. Since the first patient ride in 2016, the society has provided 80,000 patient trips, driven over 2.3 million km, and contributed almost 140,000 volunteer hours.

Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society

Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society/Facebook

Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley cancer patients who have no viable means of getting to their essential treatment are encouraged to book a ride through the VCDS website.

McAffer, who is also a volunteer driver with the organization, told Daily Hive that the number of requests is increasing each year.

“Treatment requires intensive, debilitating procedures occurring over a period of months,” said McAffer. “It can be unimaginatively challenging, both physically and mentally. Access to and from these treatments shouldn’t be an additional burden for patients and their families to deal with during their life-threatening journey.

“Our drivers are sensitive to the patient’s emotional and physical circumstances. We listen with compassion and without judgement. Time spent in transit to and from appointments is often up to an hour or more each way, allowing opportunities for volunteer drivers to provide a comforting, encouraging interlude and take the patient’s mind off their difficult journey.”

VCDS has provided service for over 3600 cancer patients since its inception, and the organization anticipates assisting about 900 more in 2022. With each requiring an average of 19 rides, VCDS will provide over 26,000 patient trips this year.

“Funding our service that is growing by about 20% annually, is a challenge,” shared McAffer. As a community-funded service, we are entirely reliant on our volunteer efforts to generate donations and grants from foundations, corporations, patients, the public, municipalities, first responders, service clubs and associations and importantly, from our own charitable drivers. All these sources have experienced a significant increase in requests for support, and in many cases revenue has decreased.”

The organization is in particular need of additional volunteer drivers in Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby. Those interested in learning more can complete the driver or dispatcher application form online.

Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society

Larry Coleman, volunteer driver and a Director at Large for Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society (left) and a passenger on a recent ride./Submitted

Coleman encourages drivers to come volunteer with the VCDS and discover how rewarding the experience is.

“Volunteer drivers will find that their kindness will be rewarded more than you can measure,” said Coleman.”I’ve been asked before, ‘Why do you do this every day?’ My answer is always the same. I do it because it’s the right thing to do.

“Come join a society that is 100% volunteer and experience what it is to give. You won’t be sorry.”

Daily Hive

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This content was created by Daily Hive's Community Partnerships team.
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