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Health Column: Free rides to NYC oncologists for cancer patients

It goes without saying that anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer must contend with a seemingly inexhaustible number of challenges. Hampton Jitney and the Sag Harbor nonprofit Fighting Chance partnered last year to ease one of those challenges by arranging transportation for patients to meet with New York City oncology specialists.

The two companies began to offer free round-trip Hampton Jitney tickets last year to cancer patients and their caregivers through a program that is still going strong.

Fighting Chance founder Duncan Darrow, whose organization has counseled hundreds of cancer patients annually since 2002, said determining travel to specialized oncology facilities like Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan for second opinions or surgery is a consistent concern among individuals.

“Typically you have to get on the Jitney, go into New York and spend the day with tests and work-ups,” said Mr. Darrow, who added that some patients forgo seeking a second opinion about their diagnosis and course of treatment because they can’t afford to travel to Manhattan. “You multiply that times the number of people who have cancer and it’s a lot of bus rides. And it’s expensive.”

Fighting Chance and Hampton Jitney collaborated in 2015 with the help of goodcircle, an East Hampton organization that matches companies and nonprofits with fundraising projects.

When Mr. Darrow told goodcircle co-founder Joan Overlock about his patients’ dilemma, she reached out to Hampton Jitney president Geoff Lynch to see if he could help.

“He loved the idea right away,” Ms. Overlock said.

“[Mr. Lynch] said, ‘What could I do to help you that I’m good at?’ı” Mr. Darrow recalled. “And we said, ‘Well, transportation is a big need for our patients. And he said, ‘Well, I’m very good at transportation.’ That started the dialogue.”

The companies worked out a deal: Hampton Jitney would match each $10 donation raised through crowdfunding with $30 worth of tickets. Just one day after the project was announced, Ms. Overlock said, 200 tickets had been funded.

“It was really Jitney customers who thought it was such a great idea and such a wonderful cause,” Ms. Overlock said. “They stepped up immediately.”

After the tickets had been donated, Ms. Overlock consulted once more with Mr. Lynch and Mr. Darrow. Could they do it again?

They could and they did. By the end of the year, Ms. Overlock said, a total of 550 tickets were given away.

In 2016, the momentum has only increased. This year, Fighting Chance was provided with 1,000 Hampton Jitney tickets to give to cancer patients and their caretakers. To receive one, an individual should visit the organization’s Sag Harbor office or give them a call at 631-725-4646. You can also visit fightingchance.org.

“People come in; they find out about it,” Mr. Darrow said. “It’s sort of a well-known program now.”

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