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Driver for Cancer Society in Washington County says work rewarding

May 13, 2008|By JANET HEIM

Clarence Gill knows firsthand the toll cancer can take on a family.

His first wife had recurring breast cancer and he was her caregiver for the last several years of her life.

"That's quite an experience. It's a tough thing," Gill said.

He remarried, and about 12 years ago read in the newspaper that the American Cancer Society in Washington County was in need of volunteer drivers. His second wife, Gloria, encouraged him to try it and he's been a "Road to Recovery" driver ever since.

Gill, 81, said volunteer drivers transport cancer patients in need of a ride from their homes to the John Marsh Cancer Center at Robinwood Medical Center for treatment. He said the time commitment varies, but he usually drives once a week.

Drivers indicate the hours they're available, as well as the distance they're willing to drive.

Most of the patients are from Hagerstown, with some scattered in the outlying areas. There is a need for drivers in those surrounding areas

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The volunteers assist "anybody that has a need for it," Gill said. "Every little bit helps."

Drivers are an important part of a patient's recovery, providing moral support and a sympathetic ear. The main requirements are the desire to help others, a good driving record and an insured car in good working condition, according to the American Cancer Society.

Gill said in his experience, the patients don't talk much when they're going to and from treatment. The biggest surprise for Gill has been driving several patients in their 90s.

"It's a very rewarding experience and it really doesn't take too much time," Gill said.

Gill was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Akron, Ohio. What started out as a temporary job after college turned into a 34-year career as an electrical engineer for the National Park Service, working in the White House.

He helped with the project to install floodlights around the White House, which was done during the Nixon administration. Gill said he got to meet some of the presidents and every year, the four engineers he worked with and their families were invited to a Christmas party at the White House.

Gill retired in 1984, did consulting for about four years, then moved to Spring Valley in 1988, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the Washington, D.C., area. He likes to work with computers and cameras and enjoys gardening and fishing.

Gill has two daughters and his wife has a daughter and a son. Between the two of them, they have a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

There are only seven drivers in Washington County, most of whom live in Hagerstown. There is a need for more drivers, especially in the Boonsboro/Sharpsburg area.

The American Cancer Society provides an orientation, support materials and other assistance for those interested in driving for the Road to Recover program.

More information can be obtained by calling Cathy Beckley-Thomas at 301-733-8272 or e-mailing her at cathy.thomas@cancer.org.

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