Brian Quinlan and Grant Lichtwark did not know each other before they started volunteering for the Cancer Society. Now, they are firm friends as part of the Te Awamutu Transport to Treatment driving service alongside Hazel Robertson and Doreen O’Connor.
“We work as a team and we work well together,” says Brian. “You’ll find that all volunteers sing from the same song sheet. We’ve got that same sense of humour, same outlook on life.”
Brian, who was born and bred in Huntly, took up volunteering after selling his courier business. The decision to add Cancer Society to his long list of volunteer ventures was prompted after the loss of his good friend, Peter Knox, to cancer.
Grant is a survivor of cancer himself after being first diagnosed in 2011.
“People ask ‘what do you do with your time? And I say ‘well, I volunteer!’” says Grant with a chuckle.
“There’s not many people you know that haven’t been touched by cancer. My Dad died at 52 of cancer. So that was another reason why I wanted to volunteer for the Cancer Society.”
They both understand the difficulties involved with a cancer diagnosis and the challenges of getting from Te Awamutu, where they both live, to treatment at Waikato Hospital.
Driving people safely to cancer treatment, they both agree, is their way of giving to the community and doing something to help relieve the stress clients are feeling.
“For a lot of people, the hospital is a very daunting place. People are always coming up and asking where’s so and so, which button do you press on the lift and that sort of thing,” says Grant.
“I had one client who was having radiation every day and used a wheelchair. I took her over every day for 35 treatments. Getting her into the car, driving her across and getting another chair on the other end took some finding. It can be time consuming but mind you, when you’re retired you’ve got a bit of time!”
Brian, who has been an active member of Lions for 30 years, saw the move of the Cancer Society’s Lions Lodge from Waikato Hospital to where it currently sits on Lake Road.
“It’s a great facility, we’re very proud of that. It’s a good combination of the Cancer Society and the Lions.
“We don’t intrude on our clients lives but we certainly like to know how they’re going. We have that bond because we’re a smaller town and we’re concerned for their wellbeing,” says Brian.
In small-town New Zealand fashion, Brian and Grant have been surprised by the connections they’ve made through volunteering.
“We were having a volunteer meeting here and someone came up to me. He said, ‘we went to school together’ and I do remember! And Doreen, she’s a bit older than us but we went to the same school in Frankton.” says Grant.
“We get a lot out of this, it’s very rewarding. It’s nice to give back to somebody - just a thank you is all you need” continues Brian.
“That’s right Brian. There’s a lot of satisfaction in volunteering. Look at Hazel – she’s been doing it for more than 30 years! That’s Herculean!” says Grant.
We get a lot out of this, it’s very rewarding. It’s nice to give back to somebody - just a thank you is all you needBrian Quinlan, Te Awamutu volunteer
About Transport to Treatment
Cancer Society provides a free driving service for people with cancer in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty. A network of trained volunteers drive clients from their home or designated meeting place to medical appointments including treatment at Waikato Hospital, and return them afterwards.
This service can be booked by calling 0800 22 77 44 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.