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Do you have a car and a few hours to spare? If so, you could join one of the dozens of volunteer drivers in Brunswick County who provide a free lift for patients to and from their treatments and provide a little companionship along the way.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY Mark Steelman

The American Cancer Society’s Road To Recovery program provides patients with transportation for their appointments. Some patients do not feel well enough to drive, and while many patients do have supportive relatives and friends willing to help, sometimes schedules conflict.

Road to Recovery Brunswick County
Volunteer drivers Nancie and Skip Carrier are bringing Raydell Bailey (center) for her treatment at the Radiation Oncology Center

That’s when Yona Bar-Zeev steps in and lends a mile. He is the Road To Recovery Coordinator for Brunswick and New Hanover Counties, and he hopes to get the word out for more members of the community to provide some relief and volunteer hours.

Carolyn Grove, a Brunswick County resident, is one of those volunteers. She is a retired school counselor, and has forty-one years of service in what she lovingly calls “the poor and beautiful state of West Virginia.”

She joined the fleet of volunteers after a conversation with her husband, who had discovered the program somewhat on a whim.

“My husband heard about Road to Recovery from a group he plays cards with!  We applied, completed online training, and sign up when we can. It’s a great service and doesn’t require hours of time.”

She recalls her first experience transporting a patient for treatment: “I was nervous for the first ride as she was a young female from New Hanover County, and finding the location even with GPS was tricky. She was a wonderful young woman and very appreciative of the service. Every passenger is memorable. Their story sticks with you. I’m always praying for their cure.”

Brunswick County Road to Recovery
Volunteer driver Ben Bagby is picking up Tricia Kobylak and will take her to a treatment session.

Retired military and federal service worker Rick Silvestri first got involved when he read about the program in the State Port Pilot last spring.

“I was already volunteering with several organizations, so I wasn’t sure if I could fit in anything else. I’m so glad I did. To be a part of someone’s recovery is both extremely rewarding and at times emotionally difficult. It doesn’t take long to establish a rapport and to become attached as they share their struggles with you. It changes your perspective and you notice with them small things that are usually overlooked.  You live your life taking in everything instead of watching it speed by.”

Jim Belter started driving for this program in Connecticut and continued to volunteer when he and his wife moved to Brunswick County in 2014.

“My wife drove her mother to all of her treatments and thereby made me aware of the ongoing transport needs of cancer patients. Patients have enough on their minds so providing transport relieves them of that concern. My first patient, like most patients, was extremely grateful. All patients are memorable with a variety of personalities.”

Because an estimated 56,900 North Carolina residents are diagnosed with cancer every year, every volunteer mile is not only a mile towards treatment but also a mile towards comfort.

Want to volunteer?

Contact the Road To Recovery program, call 1-800-227-2345 or visit the American Cancer Society website.

You can also click here to go to Volunteer Match to get started.

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Allison is a writer and English instructor living in Wilmington, NC. She moved to Nags Head, NC from Delaware in 1996 to attend community college. Then she moved to Wilmington to attend UNCW, where she graduated with a BA in English in 1998, and an MFA in poetry in 2001. While at UNCW, she wrote and edited for the Seahawk and performed at poetry slams. Over the years, she has written for NBM, StarNews Media, Encore, the Pender Post and CitySearch.com. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry East, Cobalt, Fjords, Lilies and Cannonballs, The Oklahoma Review, Scissors and Spackle, and The Lyricist. Her one act play, Heathens, was produced by Big Dawg Theater Company at Thalian Hall, and she wrote and performed with the all female performance art troupe Brawdeville from 1999 to 2003. After spending time on stage, she switched gears and taught English full time at Southeastern Community College in Whiteville, NC. She now works at Cape Fear Community College as an adjunct English instructor and a writing facilitator in the Writing Center. In her spare time, she performs with her husband, Carl Kruger, in the sound art troupe 910 Noise. She has a kind, smart and beautiful 14-year-old stepdaughter, and a 14-year-old tortoiseshell cat named Zoe Mushka, aka Mooshy.

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