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Volunteer program for cancer patients, families wins statewide award

Contact Information:
Dean Forbes
(206) 667-2896

SEATTLE – The Volunteer Services program at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) has won a statewide excellence award for promoting a caring environment. The second-annual award was given by the Washington State Society of the Directors of Volunteer Services.

The SCCA volunteer program provides social, practical and emotional support to cancer patients and their family members who have moved to Seattle from around the world to access specialized care. Services include providing transportation to and from the airport and the grocery store, and taking family members and patients out for activities such as visiting museums and other local attractions. Volunteers also visit patients when they are admitted to the hospital. Volunteers have been trained in food safety and dietary requirements for patients and may offer to make a meal for a patient and family, or take them to their favorite local restaurant.

There are about 80 volunteers at any one time. Many speak second languages and represent other cultures to help bridge the gap between health-care providers and family-support systems.

“Our patients are here as a last hope for live-saving treatment and to contribute to the ongoing research to find cures for cancer,” said Erica Karlovits, Volunteer Services program manager. “They are often here for four to six months of treatment and typically come with the entire family. Patients are far from home, in unfamiliar surroundings and battling for their life. Our volunteers provide friendship, compassion, and assistance to the entire family.”

Volunteers are matched with patients and families based on as many commonalities as possible, such as religion, culture, language, hobbies, occupation, gender, ethnicity and needs that match volunteer availability. The assignment extends for the length of treatment.

“This volunteer program benefits the health-care organization as a whole, and is unique in itself and one that we are not aware of at any other cancer center or hospital,” said Sue Oliver, the society president. “This is a win-win for everyone: patients, volunteers and the hospital.”

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Note to editors and reporters: Interviews with volunteers and staff can be arranged by contacting Dean Forbes at (206) 667-2896.

About Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, established in 1998, unites the adult and pediatric cancer-care services of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UW Medicine and Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center. A major focus of SCCA is to speed the transfer of new diagnostic and treatment techniques from the research setting to the patient bedside while providing premier, patient-focused cancer care. Patients who come to SCCA receive the latest research-based cancer therapies as well as cutting-edge treatments for a number of non-malignant diseases under development by its partner organizations. SCCA has three clinical-care sites: an outpatient clinic on the Fred Hutchinson campus, a pediatric-inpatient unit at Children’s and an adult-inpatient unit at UW Medical Center. For more information about SCCA, visit www.seattlecca.org.