Published April 17, 2012
When Ken Adams was fighting cancer, it wasn’t the treatments that he struggled with most. It was the fact that he had to watch his fellow patients waiting for hours and hours at a bus stop to be picked up after treatment.
“When I was in treatment, I wanted to go home right away. People that rode the bus, they had to sit a while,” says Adams. “Sometimes people were sitting waiting when I got there and still waiting when I would leave.”
Suffering from Stage 3 head and neck cancer, Adams was getting chemotherapy every Monday for eight weeks and radiation treatments every day for 39 days. During one of the toughest times in his life, there was one thing that kept him excited.
“I love cars and I loved driving different cars to treatment,” says the 48-year-old Lotus owner.
In 2010, he put his passion to good use, founding Your Ride Is Here, a non-profit organization that provides rides for cancer patients to their treatment appointments.
“When I first started the program, I thought we would have a few rides here and there,” says Adams, but the Austin-based organization has since provided more than 400 rides in the past two years.
“We picked someone up in a $350,000 Rolls Royce,” says Sonny Morgan, owner of John Eagle European, a high-end car dealer in Austin that sells Rolls Royce, Bentley and Aston Martin cars.
“We picked up one woman in an Aston Martin and all she could talk about was how fun it was,” Morgan recalls. “There’s a difference between getting picked up in that and going to a bus stop to get zapped.”
“We talked about what kind of car I would have if money was no object,” says Elizabeth Amsler, who is dealing with ovarian cancer and got a lift in one of Morgan’s cars. “That afternoon, he came back in an Aston Martin!”
Through Adams’ own cancer treatment and Morgan’s family members who have had to deal with cancer, they both knew that getting around on your own is not an option for many patients.
“Even if people have a car in their garage, they are too weak to drive it,” says Morgan.
“Patients have to ask friends and family to take off work to drive them, and sometimes people don’t have someone they can ask,” says Adams. Add the rapidly rising gas prices to the equation, and that is when people simply give up.
“People skip chemo and say ‘I’m just going to skip it,’” says Morgan.
So far, Your Ride is Here has never had to turn a patient away who needed a ride, and has more than 200 volunteers around Austin who use one of Morgan’s cars, or often their own exotic cars.
“If someone is going into town, why not take someone with you who needs to get to treatment?” says Adams.
When a patient gets picked up in a dream car, the focus quickly shifts from cancer to fun, says Adams. “Instead of talking about treatment and cancer, we talk about the car. It really changes the mindset of the patient.”
“I would let them know what my next appointment was and they would just show up. It was easy. That left me to spend my energy on important things… like getting better,” Amsler adds.
The organization has no paid employees, but is working to expand out of Austin and onto the nationwide scene.
“At the end of the day,” Adams says, “if everyone across the United States didn’t have to worry about a ride to treatment, that would be awesome.”