We all know someone who has had or has cancer, maybe its your family, a very good friend or an acquaintance, we are all touched in some way. While this terrible disease can be so devastating it is also the only disease that has the support of a tremendous group of professional medical people and a core of dedicated volunteers.
One such group that you may not heard of are those folks who are involved with the Freemasons Cancer Car Program, who in association with the Canadian Cancer Society provide free transportation to the Kelowna Cancer Clinic. I have been involved with the program for over twenty years, both here in the Okanagan and on Vancouver Island. While you may not have heard of the program, those that have been the recipients of this wonderful service will tell you how much the service is appreciated.
The Freemasons have purchased and maintain a fleet of vehicles in the lower Mainland, on Vancouver Island and since 1998 here in the Okanagan. Sprinter vans are located in Kamloops and Penticton, and two Caravans are placed in Vernon and Kelowna. They have a Dispatch Office in the Cancer Lodge in Kelowna, from which patients are assigned to the various Cancer Vans depending on where they live. Pickups are generally along the Highway 97 route, with some minor deviations.
Transportation to the Kelowna General Hospital, Cancer Clinic is provided for patients from Osoyoos in the south to the Kamloops area in the north. Departure times are related to appointment times for Chemotherapy or Radiation treatments, generally it takes about two hours from the south and three to four hours from the north till the first appointment. All appointments are arranged between 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM, this gives the drivers time to get back to their home base within a reasonable time. This service is carried out Monday to Friday except for holidays when the Cancer Clinic is closed. The service allows patients the relief from having to take their own cars to Kelowna for treatments.
You now know when the service runs and how you get to the Cancer Clinic, all that’s needed is people to drive the vehicles. It may come as surprise to find out that all the drivers are volunteers, some are Masons and some are not. None of patients are charged for this service, it is a free service provided by funds raised by the Masonic Order in BC & Yukon.
Patients are normally advised by their doctors of this service, but some may forget to do so. If that happens, you can contact the Freemason Cancer Car Program in Kelowna at 1-800-299-0188 and they will advise you how to set up connection should you need this service.
In the Oliver/Osoyoos area, drivers are dispatched through Erwin Weiler at 250-498-3364, if you might be interested in assisting in this program by driving please give him a call, he can always use additional drivers.
contributed by Peter Morrow