‘Part of their journey:’ Volunteer program puts cancer patients on road to recovery

The American Cancer Society needs volunteers to drive patients to appointments

Cancer treatment advancements have extended lives and made care more comfortable and convenient for patients over the years.

But with more outpatient options, some patients are having a tough time getting to all their appointments.

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This week’s Getting Results Award winner is part of a program to make sure they get there.

Valli Boungard shows up like any ride-share driver, but travels with compassion.

“I really enjoy this,” Boungard said. “If you think about it, these people are trying to recover from cancer. You’re just part of the trip, you’re part of their journey.”

The American Cancer Society Road To Recovery program provides cancer patients with free rides to their treatments through volunteer drivers.

Barbara Borrell booked a ride through the app, which works just like many commercial ride-sharing services.

“It’s difficult to get transportation sometimes,” said Borrell, as she waited in the shade for her ride.

Borrell has three incurable blood cancers, their side effects rendering her unable to drive.

“It becomes a challenge. My vision, my hearing and my balance,” Borrell told News 6 as she was on her way to the eye doctor.

She said she relies on the free service for many of her appointments.

“That’s her,” said Borrell, as Boungard pulled up to her building. “She has a cute way of getting the car turned around so I can go in the right way.”

Boungard said she tries to help Borrell when she can. The two have become friends because of their regular rides together.

“The main thing about Barbara is that I’ve never heard anything negative. You never hear anything negative from anyone. They’re basically up for the fight,” Boungard said.

Many people need daily or weekly treatment, often over the course of several months. Increasingly, these treatments are provided on an outpatient basis.

Debbie Coover, Central Florida coordinator for the Road To Recovery program, said people needing cancer treatments often cite transportation to and from medical appointments as a critical need.

“It can become a burden for the family,” Coover said.

Since 2005, the Road To Recovery program has provided more than 9.5 million rides to over 580,000 patients.

To keep up with the demand for rides, Coover said more volunteers like Boungard are needed.

“I can tell you right now we have 133 requests here in Central Florida,” Coover said. “Now how many of those we’re going to be able to fill is the big question.”

Boungard said she likes that she’s able to accept rides whenever it’s convenient for her and they often don’t take up more than an hour of her day.

“The main thing that strikes me is how courageous people are,” Boungard said. “I mean they’re just so grateful that you’re doing this. They’re ready to get well.”

Boungard knows firsthand what the people in her car are going through. She’s a cancer survivor herself.

“I’m retired and I wanted a purpose. I wanted to help the community and help people that had experienced some of the things I did. It’s really important to me,” she said.

Boungard joked that she’s this week’s Getting Results Award winner because she’s a safe driver who hasn’t “had any wrecks.”

If you’re a safe driver and would like to help, the American Cancer Society is looking for volunteers for the Road To Recovery program. To learn more, call their hotline number at 877-901-2862

About the Author:

Paul is a Florida native who graduated from the University of Central Florida. As a multimedia journalist, Paul enjoys profiling the people and places that make Central Florida unique.