Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation recognises Garth’s drive to help others
By Cancer Council NSW
To Garth Howard, volunteering as a Transport to Treatment driver is about so much more than simply getting cancer patients to treatment.
The Coffs Harbour local says it’s also an opportunity to support people when they are going through some of the most physically and emotionally stressful times of their lives, lending a helping hand and a kind word when needed.
Garth recalls the day he saw a patient he had driven on previous occasions who had been admitted to hospital the previous afternoon and did not have any transport arranged to get home.
Without hesitation, Garth asked the hospital to arrange the paperwork for him to take her home to Coffs Harbour after treatment.
Which, Garth says, is what being a Cancer Council volunteer driver is all about.
“That’s what makes my day – you can help people unexpectedly. This same lady asked if on the way home, I could call into her sister’s residence, some 250 metres from where this lady lived, to pick up some pre-prepared meals for her. It was greatly appreciated by both ladies,” Garth said.
“I have also been asked if I can call into a chemist on the way to the patient’s home.
“I think the best part of being a volunteer driver is having a chat with people – we have a friendship. You find out not just about their treatment, but what is going on in their lives.”
It’s exactly this can-do attitude that made Garth the recipient of this year’s Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation Chairman’s medal.
The medal is presented annually to an outstanding volunteer from a charity that has previously received funding from the Charitable Foundation. It recognises the volunteer’s service in addressing disadvantage or marginalisation within their local community.
Garth said he was thrilled but surprised to be recognised.
“I just do what needs to be done, and I don’t believe I’m doing anything over and above,” he said.
“Every Transport to Treatment driver looks for ways to help wherever we can. We’re not just drivers – we become part of patients’ support systems.”
A ‘jack of all trades’ and a friend to all
Garth began volunteering with Cancer Council in 2012, initially as a Community Speaker Coordinator.
As a Transport to Treatment driver, Garth says he can travel up to 100km and sometimes 400km a day transporting patients who have no other way of getting to treatment due to their financial situation, physical limitations or remoteness.
A key member of the Cancer Council NSW Northern team, Garth is known as always being the first person to fill in anytime there are a shortage of drivers.
This attitude has meant he has supported Cancer Council behind the scenes at countless fundraising events, as well as in the day-to-day maintenance of the Transport to Treatment vehicles.
The self-confessed ‘jack of all trades’ has been personally touched by cancer.
“The reason I ended up volunteering with Cancer Council is I lost my father to stomach cancer and my mother to bowel cancer,” he said.
“I have empathy for the people that are going through treatment and I hope someone would be able to give the same help if I was in that position.”
Garth says being a volunteer driver has allowed him to forge connections and friendships in his local community.
“You also create a friendship with the patients’ families,” Garth said.
“A fellow down at Nambucca had terminal cancer and was going home to Tasmania. They held a farewell for him at the caravan park where he lived, and I was asked to sign his going away card.”
“It shows that people appreciate what Transport to Treatment drivers do.”
The only thing that can temporarily slow down Garth’s drive to help others is if he breaks his lower right leg – again.
Born without a lower right leg, Garth says he tends to break his prosthetics by being a “bit too active” at times.
Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation’s ongoing support for cancer patients
Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation has generously supported the Transport to Treatment program, enabling the development of the TRIPS booking platform in 2018.
The TRIPS platform has now been successfully developed and is in place across NSW. It has transformed Cancer Council NSW’s ability to track and monitor the volume and frequency of patient trips to treatment, and ultimately enabled us to better respond to the needs of vulnerable cancer patients in our community.
In 2019, the Charitable Foundation also supported the Transport to Treatment program by funding two new vehicles for Tamworth and Taree. The vehicles will begin servicing these communities at the end of the month, ensuring that people affected by cancer continue to be able to access treatment – regardless of where they live.
If you need help getting to treatment, please call our Information and Support line on 13 11 20.