Volunteers help sick kids get to hospital

October 27, 2008 2:49:49 PM PDT
For ten years now, volunteers on the Peninsula and in the South Bay have been making it possible for sick kids to get needed medical care -- just by getting behind the wheel.

Luis DeSilva of Campbell will drive hundreds of miles to pick up and drop off passengers today. But, he's not a bus driver.

"Today, I just got back from Soledad. Sometimes I go to King City. Today will be like a nine hour drive," said DeSilva.

He's a volunteer for a program called "Care-A-Van for Kids." That means two to three times a week DeSilva juggles his work schedule to give him time to pick up patients - like this East Palo Alto teenager - for doctors appointments at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

"Cause we usually don't have no ride, so that's why we have a caravan, so they can help us get to the hospital," said Kevin Fanuatanu, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital patient.

"The clientele of Care-A-Van is low income, without any reliable means of transportation," said Erin Champion, Care-A-Van for Kids manager.

The program has 30 volunteer drivers to cover six counties from Alameda to San Benito. They'd like to have a hundred volunteers. All it takes is a driver's license, a clean driving record, background and fingerprint check, spare time, and the desire to help.

"They actually appreciate all the service we give them. They are very thankful. Everyday they say thanks and it's nice. It's a good feeling to help people like this," said DeSilva.

Local companies donate the vans. They have seven of them now, and a few are getting up there in age. In ten years of service, Care-A-Van has provided more than 6,000 rides for youngsters with chronic medical conditions, who couldn't get there any other way.

"Now that we've reached the ten year milestone, we feel that Care-A-Van is part of the culture here now, and we look forward to the next ten years," said Champion.


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