By Konstantine Fekos
VERNON TOWNSHIP —
The PinkVette sports car left some impressive tracks of its legacy Tuesday afternoon when the Yolanda G. Barco Oncology Institute received a new car to help transport local cancer patients.
“When Brian Bair and David Gray approached me about a year ago, asking what they could do to help, I told them the top item on our wish list was a vehicle to transport patients to and from the center,” said Valerie Waid, institute director, referring to the local businessmen in charge of Bair’s Corvettes of Linesville and Smith-Gray Buick GMC of Meadville.
In short order, Bair, Gray and others began to recondition a run-down 1984 Chevrolet Corvette, getting it into tip-top shape, painting it pink (as a tribute to the fight against breast cancer) and began driving it to community gatherings in all parts of Crawford County. Sponsors have chipped in with contributions and placed their logos on the car; and other donors could be part of the fun by paying fees then etching their signatures onto the car.
Some 200 sponsors, 3,000 autographs and $70,000 later, Christmas came early when the PinkVette Fund, as it’s casually referred to, paid for a 2012 GMC Terrain. The new car rolled straight from Smith-Gray to the institute’s front doors and into the open arms of medical supervisors and staff alike.
“The big thing is bringing patients here for treatment and taking them back home,” said Jim Chandler, the Barco Institute’s patient transport coordinator. “This is for people who don’t have the ability or the means to get here.”
Waid expects the transportation program to begin as early as this week.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “We hope to start an endowment to keep the transportation program going for years to come.”
A consent form is in the works for patients eligible for transport. Requirements will be determined in part by social worker Shelly Pence. “We also hope to have about 15 volunteers to drive the vehicle,” she said. “That’s our goal.”
Volunteers can apply for the position by calling Chandler at (814) 337-0625.” Applicants will be subject to screening criteria, including ability to physically assist patients, background checks and driving records.
“We’ll be getting drivers lined up with their clearances,” said Chandler.
Waid picked the car out of the Smith-Gray lot after assessing patient needs, according to Gray.
“She was very instrumental in choosing what worked best for the patients,” he said. “And there’s been a real outpouring from the staff.”
“We wanted something easy for patients to physically get in and out of,” said Waid. “An all-wheel-drive vehicle was picked because we wanted something that could get into any environment.”
Rationale behind an all-terrain Terrain included reaching non-local patients in areas like Titusville and Guys Mills.
“Patients who are unable to transport themselves may not have their driveways shoveled in the winter, so the vehicle needs to be able to get into any driveway, regardless of conditions,” Waid said. “Patients could have to come in three to five days a week for treatment, so we should be able to offer rides if they’re not physically well enough to drive home.”
In order to attain the right level of convenience, the institute had to implement its own localized version of a nationwide American Cancer Society transportation program, according to Waid.
“The vehicle is also unmarked,” she said. “This maintains confidentiality for the patients getting dropped off.”
Bair and Gray, originally expecting to raise about $30,000 in two years, were pleasantly surprised to have amassed donations totaling more than $70,000 approximately six months after its public debut in May.
“When the idea first came, we anticipated a two-year timetable,” said Gray. “Overwhelming generosity has brought it a year early.”
The giving doesn’t stop there, however.
While the PinkVette has just about run out of events for the year, it’s set to tour again once the spring weather hits. All donation money remaining will now go toward gas, maintenance and general upkeep on the donated transportation vehicle.
“We expect to get five or six years out of this vehicle, but even though we’ve met the goal, the cause continues through next year,” said Gray. “Any group or organization that has an activity and wants the PinkVette to be there should visit pinkvette.net or call Bair’s Corvettes.”
The PinkVette’s eventual auction, its penultimate contribution to the Barco Institute, is still scheduled for fall 2013.
“The auction’s still in the works,” said Bair. “But we’ll give out the dates when everything’s finalized.”
“We’re blessed to live in this community with its overwhelming support,” said Waid.
You can help
Volunteer drivers are needed to help drive patients to and from Yolanda G. Barco Oncology Institute. You can apply for the position by calling Jim Chandler at (814) 337-0625. Applicants will be subject to screening criteria, including ability to physically assist patients, and background and driving record checks.
Anyone who wants to donate to the PinkVette Fund, or organizations that would like the PinkVette to come to an activity, should visit pinkvette.net.