|By Lori Szepelak|
HOLYOKE -- Maura Schiavina's career had been spent on the road as a lieutenant with the Massachusetts State Police, but now in her retirement, she traverses the roads for another cause -- ensuring cancer patients arrive at their treatment locations on time.
"You never hear people complain about their cancer," Schiavina, of West Springfield, said during a recent interview with Reminder Publications. "They are grateful and appreciative of this service." Both Schiavina and Lila M. Brady, community executive, health initiatives, for the American Cancer Society (ACS), sat down at the 59 Bobala Rd. headquarters to promote the Road to Recovery volunteer driver program.
During a family breakfast gathering more than a year ago, Schiavina was approached by her cousin, Brady, about the need for more drivers in the Road to Recovery program. Since Schiavina had just retired after 25 years with the state police unit, Brady knew she would be ideal for the program.
"I told Lila I'd try it a couple of days a week," Schiavina said.
Looking back on the past year, Schiavina has no regrets about her decision to help others in need.
"Some day you could be in the boat they're in," she added. "Being as sick as they are, it's one less stressor knowing that someone is there to help."
Brady echoed those sentiments.
"We're the safety net if people can't get transportation," Brady said.
Brady noted that the Road to Recovery program is in "great need" of local volunteers to drive cancer patients to and from their chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments. An integral part of treating cancer successfully is making sure cancer patients receive their treatments, but many find making transportation arrangements a challenge, according to Brady.
The ACS provided more than 7,000 rides to cancer patients in Massachusetts last year, but needs new volunteer drivers to keep up with the demand for transportation.
Area residents interested in becoming a volunteer driver for the program must own a safe and reliable vehicle, have a current, valid driver's license, have proof of adequate automobile insurance, and have a good driving record. Additionally, all drivers must attend a volunteer training session.
"The schedule for volunteers is flexible and treatment appointments take place weekdays, primarily during business hours," Brady said.
Brady is hoping she can garner 25 to 30 new drivers in the coming weeks.
"Even volunteering one to two hours a month can make a difference in someone's life," added Brady.
Schiavina noted that her experience helping others has made her appreciate her life even more.
"You grow a lot," Schiavina said, adding, "It makes me grateful for God's grace to have the opportunity to do this."
For more information on the Road to Recovery volunteer driver program, call the American Cancer Society's Holyoke office at 493-2128 or visit www.cancer.org.
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