The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

December 17, 2013

Road trips with new friends for cancer society volunteer driver

MAHONING TWP. — After Jim Runyan retired, his wife, Sandy, asked his daughter to find something for him to do.

“My daughter Renee Martin had worked for the American Cancer Society and said I would be good for the Road to Recovery Program. I am a people person, like to drive and like to meet new people,” said Runyan, of Riverside.

He was recently featured in an article in the cancer society’s national magazine,

Triumph, as a volunteer driver.

Runyan sets Tuesdays aside to drive patients.

On Tuesday, he had three assignments — to take Nivea Rodriguez, of Berwick, for a radiation treatment at Geisinger Medical Center and back home, transport a patient from Liberty Township to the Columbia County Cancer Center and drive a Bloomsburg man to Geisinger.

Runyan uses a gray Chevrolet Impala, bearing cancer society signs, which has been donated for the volunteer drivers.

This was the second time Runyan had driven Rodriguez to and from an appointment. “All the drivers are very nice,” said the woman diagnosed with breast cancer and scheduled to complete radiation treatments Dec. 6. She previously underwent surgery and chemotherapy. “I’m doing well and my doctors are very happy about it,” she said.

She and Runyan found they have something in common — when he served with the Marine Corps he was stationed in Viequez, Puerto Rico, and she’s from Puerto Rico.

Runyan, who is retired as shipping department manager and a consultant for American Home Foods, gets his driving schedule from the cancer society office at Geisinger, which currently has about 22 volunteer drivers.

When contacted by society magazine editor Brian Cook, Runyan learned Jan Ulmer, of the society’s Williamsport branch recommended him for the article. “He sent a photographer who spent the day with me and took hundreds of pictures,” Runyan said.

Runyan dedicated the article “to all the people who do what I do and volunteers everywhere.”

“I have taken patients to Hershey, Wilkes-Barre, Forty Fort, Pottsville, Geisinger, Bloomsburg, Berwick and Lewisburg,” he said of the service offered free to cancer patients.

He has transported lots of older folks along with some young adults. “These are people who don’t drive or their families can’t take off work for their treatments,” he said of some patients needing radiation treatments five days a week.

Runyan picks them up at their homes, covering a territory including Benton, Orangeville, Washingtonville, Turbotville, Lewisburg, Penns Creek, Mount Carmel, Shamokin and Frackville.

If the weather is bad, he talks with the patient and decides whether to make the trip. “I’ve never not gone — one day I drove in an ice storm to Bear Gap,” he said of the storm that began while he was on the road.

He keeps a file folder of everyone he has transported through the years. “I also have a memorial to the ones who didn’t make it. I don’t want to forget them — I remember every one of them. When you drive that far with people, you get to know them,” he said.

He also delivers medications to shut-ins and nursing homes in the Danville area for Danville Giant Foods’ pharmacy and receives a stipend for his work four days a week.

Runyan remains active by lifting weights and doing cardio workouts at Muscle and Fitness Factory in Danville. He got into lifting free weights while in the Marines in 1957. He’s usually at the gym five days a week.

He and his wife are active in their church — Shiloh United Church of Christ of Danville.

Email comments to kblackledge@thedanvillenews.com.

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