By Eren Simpson
When someone is diagnosed with cancer, the last question on his or her mind should be, “How am I going to get to my treatment?”
When his mom was being treated for stage four pancreatic cancer, Zach Bolster heard about the struggle some patients have getting to and from treatment due to lack of transportation, often leading them to quit treatment altogether.
So Bolster started volunteering to take patients to and from their treatments, and he soon realized this was a huge need.
“My mom was going through treatment, and we saw how hard it is to fight cancer. It’s scary, it’s intimidating. It felt out of control, and my mom had the support of my sister, my father and my wife, and we did everything we could so she could focus on getting better, and it was really hard … and we saw a lot of people didn’t have that same support system,” Bolster said.
He said one of the biggest challenges was the need for an on-demand ride. So one day, out on a walk with his sister, he said, “Why don’t we get these people an Uber or Lyft?” and that’s how ChemoCars was born.
All patients have to do is call the 24-hour service line and request a pickup. ChemoCars then works with an Uber or Lyft driver to get patients to and from their appointments. You don’t need a special app or a smartphone; you just need a cell phone to call the service, and so the driver can get in touch with you to notify you that your driver has arrived and what kind of car he or she is driving.
“Cancer is super expensive,” Bolster said. “There are so many out-of-pocket expenses, and even though ChemoCars is super cost effective, not everyone can afford an Uber or Lyft, so we’re funded through donations and grants, so it’s completely free to patients.”
ChemoCars recently received the SEED20 Wells Fargo People’s Choice Grand Prize of $20,000, and all of that money is going to provide rides for patients to receive their lifesaving treatments. Bolster understands being new to Charlotte—he and his wife, Patricia, moved her from New York when his mother was diagnosed with cancer. Being new to Charlotte – Bolster and his wife moved from New York when his mother was diagnosed with cancer. He knew it was important to try to meet as many people and get in touch with as many organizations as possible to get ChemoCars off the ground, so he got involved with SEED20 to help get the word out about his organization.
Created by Social Venture Partners, the annual SEED20 program identifies, highlights and connects the community to the region’s most innovative ideas for tackling pressing social challenges.
“We were thrilled to take home the grand prize, which was voted on by the audience, and we’re really appreciative,” Bolster said. “It’s introducing us to people who will help our program thrive. I can’t say enough good things about SEED20.”
ChemoCars’ first ride was in May 2017, and in its first year, the organization provided 2,000 rides. To date, the service has provided more than 4,000 rides for cancer patients.
“Riders love it, and we’re working really hard to make transportation simple and stress-free so they can focus on what matters most, and that’s getting better,” Bolster said.
Bolster and his wife quit their 70-hour-a week jobs in finance and real estate in New York, and now work full-time on growing ChemoCars. Sadly, Bolster’s mother passed away just five weeks after her diagnosis, and it’s in her memory that the entire family works hard every day to make ChemoCars a success.
To learn more about ChemoCars and donate a ride for lifesaving treatment, visit www.chemocars.org.