Free ride program for cancer patients desperate for new drivers in KC metro

NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The avenue to good health begins with a ride to the doctor's office.

Kansas City's chapter of the American Cancer Society is in need of volunteer drivers to help keep the road open. The nonprofit's Road to Recovery program uses volunteer drivers and their cars to help cancer patients get to their medical appointments.

In 2018, Road to Recovery drivers helped patients reach their doctors on more than 2,000 occasions, thanks to volunteers such as Sal Montuori.

"This is good," Montuori said cheerfully, while driving a patient to North Kansas City Hospital on Wednesday.

Montouri, a retired school teacher who grew up in New York City, drives as a volunteer one day a week. Sometimes, that means making as many as three trips per day, getting patients where they need to go. Volunteer drivers perform at their own expense, paying for gas themselves.

Sal Montuori

"There are people I drive who never say a word to me except two words: 'thank you,' when I pick them up and 'thank you' when they return. Then, there are some people who say, 'Please talk to me,'" Montuori told FOX4.

Drivers, like Montuori, make friends along the way, like Vickie Smith, whose roots trace back to Harrisonville. Smith, a retired homemaker, said she's been battling breast cancer since November 2017.

"I am so blessed and so grateful," Smith said. "It's amazing. It's heartwarming, really, because not everyone will do it. It is amazing that they give up all of that to take care of people."

American Cancer Society leaders in the metro said they're hopeful to add 45 new drivers in the next 45 days.

Ashley Berndt, a community development manager with the nonprofit, said Road to Recovery rides are complimentary so long as the rider is impacted by cancer. Drivers usually have their own attachment to the dreaded condition.

"You can set your own schedule. We don't have to tell you when you have to be where. Essentially, you're allowed to set your schedule based on your time commitment you're willing to give," Berndt said.

"Please try it for a month, and you'll see there's a place for you," Montouri said.

Berndt said getting those new drivers will help as many as 1,500 more patients reach their appointments, and in many cases, those patients couldn't get there without the ride.

If you're interested in getting involved, you can learn more at the American Cancer Society website or by calling 800-227-2345.

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