BUFFALO, N.Y. — Cancer treatment is tough. Finding a ride to treatment shouldn't be.
Karla Warburton was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in 2019. She had numerous appointments for chemotherapy and radiation. Family and friends took her when they could, but she was excited to learn about another transportation option called the "Road to Recovery."
"It was a relief that there was somewhere else that I could go to get a ride," said Warburton. "It helped me to feel a bit more independent that I didn't have to have [family] do it all the time."
The concept is pretty simple: volunteer drivers give cancer patients a much-needed lift to appointments for free. Volunteer drivers have to undergo a background check and vehicle inspection.
"It's purely driven by volunteers. The American Cancer Society supports the infrastructure for patients to call in and set up appointments and for volunteers to give rides. We need more drivers. It's very, very, very popular among the patients. They are so grateful," said Kevin Schmidle, outreach coordinator and volunteer driver for the program.
Schmidle said one of the best parts of the program is its flexibility, which allows him to schedule rides around his work schedule.
"The program has the flexibility where you can look at the calendar and say oh, this person needs a ride at 7 a.m. on a Wednesday. That's perfect. You don't have to be committed to round trips. You can do one way. You can do both ways. You can pick and choose what fits your schedule," said Schmidle.
You don't sit with patients at appointments; you simply pick up or drop off.
"I can't imagine, first, getting cancer but then realizing I need to get a ride. We all get in our cars and take it for granted, and 95 percent of the time we are probably alone. [The program is] extremely popular. The patients love it. It's the kind of program where I quickly realize that you don't have to be an athlete or celebrity to make someone's day," said Schmidle.
The program was on hiatus during the pandemic, but they had a soft relaunch in the fall. Now they're looking for more volunteer drivers.