In its second year, the Pigs of Hope campaign to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society (CSS) Wheels of Hope program kicked off at the Nov. 16 Chatham Kiwanis Club meeting.
CCS area office manager Cindy Vinall was at the meeting with the blue and pink piggy banks to explain the fundraiser and let the club members hear from Wheels of Hope volunteer driver Bob Little, who has been driving cancer patients since 2009.
According to Vinall, the transportation program is important because in Ontario one in five cancer patients can’t get to their cancer-related appointments, often in Windsor and London, because of physical or financial challenges.
In 2016, drivers such as Little provided rides to 13 children and their families for 74 trips, 206 adult cancer patients with 3,590 rides and 37 volunteer drivers put in over 347,000 kilometres going to and from appointments.
Little said in his eight years of driving, he has made about 400 trips with about 250 patients and said the patients are so grateful for the service.
“The impact on cancer patients is huge. You get some people without much money, and if CCS didn’t take them, they wouldn’t get there at all,” Little said. “I feel really good about what I do. The schedule is flexible; I drive about once a week, but you aren’t bound by that.”
He said the average patient he drives looks healthy and “if they didn’t tell you they had cancer you would never know.”
Little noted some people even try to pay him for the ride but he tells them it’s not allowed.
The program is a very important one for cancer patients locally, but it does come with a cost.
“The average cost for one ride is $50 and a cancer patient typically rides with our Wheels of Hope transportation service 10 to 17 times, so it costs between $500 and $850 per client,” Vinall told the Kiwanis members. “Without this program, these patients would have no other way to get to treatments.”
Last year, she said Pigs of Hope raised $12,000, and they are hoping to equal that amount again this year. How it works is you adopt a pink or blue pig and get an adoption certificate, then sign a contract that you will raise $50, the cost of one ride, or $100, the cost of two rides.
“They have fun with them. Last year, people dressed them up and took them to parties, to work and got donations that way,” Vinall said.
There is also a contest for the Best Name and Best Dressed Pig. Just take a picture of your pig dressed up and e-mail your pig’s picture and name to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @ccschathamkent.
Anyone interested in adopting a pig or who has a question about Wheels of Hope can call the CCS office locally at 519-352-3960 or email Darcy Derbecker at the above address.