By Gord Bowes, News staff
For 20 years, a low-key Mountain-based charity has been making cancer patients’ lives better by providing them with free programs, rides, supplies and support.
But Cancer Assistance Program’s name isn’t well-known throughout the city.
“We’re the best-kept secret,” says Soosie Stuart, a volunteer driver-co-ordinator who has been with the group since its inception.
In 2013, CAP helped 2,200 people battling cancer, through equipment loans, medical supplies, rides to appointments and the use of parking spots for people receiving treatment who can’t afford to pay for parking at the Juravinski Cancer Centre.
And it couldn’t be done without the more than 100 active volunteers who help the organization, says Bobby Jo Smith, CAP’s new executive director.
“Volunteers are the backbone of our organization,” says Smith. “They’re everything to us.”
“I’m absolutely wowed by everything they do and their commitment.”
Last week, CAP’s volunteers were honoured at the second annual appreciation picnic at Dundas Driving Park.
Smith says there is a plan to honour the long-time helpers by placing plaques on a wall in the office.
“We want to ensure their legacy lives on,” she says.
CAP was founded in 1994 by a group headed by Don Muir who had been volunteering with the Mountain unit of the Canadian Cancer Society. When the unit closed, a plan was put in place to start a new charity to ensure cancer patients received necessary services not covered under OHIP.
Helena Streun, a volunteer for 20 years who like many others had previously volunteered with Canadian Cancer Society, says she was impressed by the work of Muir to get CAP off the ground.
“He knew we had to go on and serve the people,” she says.
“It was a scary idea because the Cancer Society was established nationally,” she says, but she was confident it would succeed.
Everything CAP offers — including walkers, wheelchairs, wigs, meal supplements and breast prostheses — is provided at no cost. Last year, 5,100 pieces of equipment were loaned out and 1,300 day-to-day necessities were supplied.
CAP receives no government funding and relies on community support through special events, donations and bequests, says Smith.
The office is at 569 Concession St., three blocks west of the Juravinski Cancer Centre.
Cancer Assistance Program is always in need of volunteers to drive cancer patients to and from their medical appointments.
This year, CAP has had to turn down some requests for rides because of a lack of drivers.
“We’re in desperate need of drivers so we can serve the entire city of Hamilton,” says Bobby Jo Smith, CAP’s executive director.
Drivers need to be 18 years or older, pass a police check, have a safe driving record, provide references and be available weekdays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Being a good listener is not required, but always appreciate, says Smith.
The volunteers are paid for their mileage, though many donate their compensation back to CAP.
Last year, volunteers drove patients on more than 3,000 round trips to treatment.
Call 905-383-9797 for more information.