“We’re small but mighty,” was the way Founder Sherry Higgs first described her nonprofit organization, Drivers for Survivors (DFS).
We first spoke over the phone but those words rang true when my colleague, Rizwan, and I visited her 400-square-foot office in Fremont, Calif. With only one room, aside from the reception area, Higgs sat with up to three interns.
“We’re doing something special,” she said.
Now, we truly believe they are too.
When Cancer Strikes a Caring Person
Higg’s own diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer in 2010 led her to create DFS. More than a year of treatment immediately followed her diagnosis, and that’s when she sparked the idea for the nonprofit. During treatment, she began having trouble working out the logistics of getting to and from countless appointments. She also saw how much stress was added to other patients who were also having trouble with transportation.
“I wanted to do something,” she said.
And that she did. Starting with an advocacy and awareness program for inflammatory breast cancer, she then focused on the linear need of giving rides to cancer patients in the Fremont, Newark and Union City, Calif., area. Higgs not only saw the need, but her level of empathy inspired her to launch DFS as a full-time endeavor after treatment.
Barrier to Recovery
Treatment can be costly for cancer patients, but out-of-pocket expenses also add up quickly. Genevie, a cancer patient and DFS client, said paying her family and friends for their time to drive her to treatments became burdensome. Her treatment facility was located outside her hometown, and the sessions were three to four hours long. She not only felt guilty for always asking, but it also became costly.
One study has found that direct nonmedical costs, such as transportation, accounted for 9 percent of the total financial burden for breast cancer patients, according to ACS Surgery News. Whether it is an unforeseen expense, or lack of access, transportation is seen as a barrier to treatment and could impact a cancer patient’s recovery.
Giving Rides With Companionship
DFS provides free transportation service for ambulatory cancer patients, and it also emphasizes supportive companionship. Friendships and close bonds are usually formed between volunteers and DFS clients. Aside from relieving the financial burden and the stress of finding their own rides, DFS also gives cancer patients a growing support system.
Jack, a cancer survivor who is currently going through the volunteer application process for DFS, credits nonprofit organizations and their volunteers for helping him fight his battle with lung cancer.
“You cannot survive this alone,” he said, adding that DFS is a great way for him to make new friends while giving back.
DFS has grown rapidly over the past three years. There are currently 106 drivers helping 147 clients and giving more than 5,500 rides. While the need is tremendous, progress has also produced challenges. Clearly outgrowing its office, DFS is in need of a database, as information is currently managed manually. While DFS hopes to grow to more cities in the long run, the current focus is to continue to help the underserved in the Fremont, Newark and Union City area.
DFS is currently running a YouCaring fundraiser, An Uplifting Opportunity to Support Cancer Patients, to help offset the costs of providing for the growing number of patients the nonprofit is serving. Every contribution helps to provide support and companionship to those in need. Donate today!
For more information on Drivers for Survivors visit the website.