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helping hands on the road to recovery
Story by Audrey Hanes, Photo by Amy Long

Thanks to Jonesboro’s new Road to Recovery program, local cancer patients will now be able to focus more on battling their disease and worry less about transportation for treatment.

Road to Recovery, an American Cancer Society (ACS) program, uses volunteers to provide rides to people with cancer who do not have a ride or who are unable to drive themselves. Jonesboro’s program launched this past November with nine volunteers and plans to work with both of Jonesboro’s acute care hospitals.

“We want to help these patients who don’t have a ride to their cancer treatments,” said Amber Horton, Jonesboro’s ACS health initiatives representative. “Many don’t feel well enough to drive or don’t have the support systems to get to and from treatments. These volunteers volunteer their time and the use of their vehicles; they take time out of their day to drive these patients to and from their cancer treatments.

“With Jonesboro being such a growing community … there is really a need for patients to have this support system and to have those rides available. It was very important to me and to the ACS to establish this program.”
The need for such a program to is dire. The ACS expected more than 16,000 Arkansans to be diagnosed with cancer in 2013.

To get the ball rolling, the ACS partnered with East Arkansas Area Agency on Aging, and Road to Recovery quickly gained support and attracted eager volunteers. Horton says she has already gone to speak to several local clubs, Sunday school classes and other groups about getting involved with the new local branch of the program.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Horton. “The community just wants to help in any way they can. … Our volunteers are some of the nicest people, and they really have a strong desire to help these people – that’s why they volunteered.”

Volunteer Michele Murphy is currently working as the volunteer coordinator for the program’s nine volunteer drivers: John Turner, Kim McDaniel, Judith Dent, Lavon Crawford, George Grant, Deborah Grant, Sherry Blevins, Neil Puryear and Joan Scott.

To volunteer as a Road to Recovery driver, volunteers must have a valid driver’s license, access to a vehicle and personal automobile insurance. Volunteers may drive as frequently as their schedules permit them to transport patients to and from Jonesboro’s treatment centers.

“Road to Recovery ensures that patients have transportation when they need it the most,” said Greg Broy, an American Cancer Society spokesperson. “For these patients, our drivers are a lifeline. It’s a valuable service, but one that requires tremendous volunteer manpower.

“Road to Recovery reduces the burden felt by many patients and allows them to focus on getting well.”

Those involved with the program are currently working to get referrals from St. Bernards Medical Center and NEA Baptist Health System. Horton hopes that the program will hit its stride after the holidays and plans to start scheduling volunteers to drive patients to and from their appointments and treatments at that time.

“We’ve been trying to build up volunteers for several local programs, Road to Recovery being the main one we need volunteers for since it’s new,” she said. “Anyone who wants to volunteer, we welcome them to volunteer for this program. We are especially looking for volunteers in the Paragould area right now, too.”

For Horton, an Arkansas State University graduate, the choice to enter a line of work that is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem hit close to home.

“I’ve had people in my family who have had cancer. They were lucky enough to have a support system, but not everyone is,” said Horton. “That’s one of the things I love most about my job – that I’m able to help cancer patients find that support system.

“Having this opportunity means a lot to me. I treasure this opportunity to get to translate what my family members went through to helping other people – it’s something I’ve enjoyed immensely.”

For more information about the American Cancer Society or Road to Recovery, call 501-831-3736 or visit cancer.org. For 24/7 live assistance, call 800-227-2345.