Jefferson Award Winner Arranges Volunteer Drivers For PatientsBy Sharon Chin

FREMONT (KPIX 5) When Genevieve Angelides learned she had skin cancer, she didn’t want to burden her friends with driving her to radiation appointments. She was relieved to get a lift from Drivers for Survivors.

“That meant the world to me,” she remembered.

Drivers for Survivors is the brainchild of Sherry Higgs. The three-year old-nonprofit gives cancer patients from Fremont, Newark, and Union City a free ride to and from medical appointments up to 60 miles away. Higgs also says you can even qualify for free rides to your medical appointment if your doctor suspects you have cancer. And the organization is hoping to expand to Hayward.

“If you’re dealing with saving your own life, the last thing you need to worry about is getting a ride to your treatment,” Higgs said.

When Higgs herself underwent chemo for inflammatory breast cancer in 2010, her friend Barbara Lapre-O’Leary offered to drive her. And when Higgs began organizing rides for cancer patients, Lapre-O’Leary was one of the first volunteers.

“I never thought the simple gesture of taking her to her appointments would lead to all of this,” Lapre-O’Leary marveled. “She’s very driven. She just saw the need.”

Today, more than 100 volunteers drive about 300 cancer survivors for medical treatment every month. And the volunteer is not only a driver, but also a companion — someone to talk to, someone to listen. Patients can ask the driver to sit in during a doctor’s appointment, to be their second set of ears.

“What would I have done if I didn’t have Drivers for Survivors?” Angelides asked her volunteer driver, Sandi Cole. The two have forged a special bond.

“Being a good listener is ‘numero uno’ as far as doing these drives,” Cole explained.

“I didn’t worry about anything. It gave me a lot of relief,” Angelides said later.

Higgs says she and her volunteers are simply sharing the kind of support Lapre-O’Leary gave her during her battle with cancer: “My soul needed to do something big. And I’m not done yet.”

So for providing compassionate drivers for cancer survivors, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Sherry Higgs.

If you or someone you know needs a ride to cancer treatment appointments, email or call drivers for survivors at 510-579-0535.